The Mustangs ended the first half of their summer weightlifting and conditioning program with the third annual Night of Champions designed to give parents and fans a look at the Walker Valley football training process. The storm arrives when Walker Valley returns from a two-week break.
The Mustangs caught a much-appreciated break during the hour long Special Forces-like training session/competition when a light rain started falling during the session. At the end of the grueling 60 minutes, freshman Dylan Blackwell, sophomore Bryson Bradley and junior Holt Spencer — who won a tiebreaker against Morgan Goodman — and senior Chandler Hunt completed the most stations and were acknowledged by a cheering crowd.
The Mustangs now will be away from the weight room and conditioning field in compliance with the TSSAA-mandated dead period prohibiting coaches from having contact with athletes. The down time began for the Mustangs after Friday’s Night of Champions.
Walker Valley head coach Glen Ryan said he hopes the time off will give the team a chance to rest and recuperate before team training resumes for real July 8. Athletes may still train on their own as long as it is not at the Walker Valley indoor facility.
“We can’t have any contact with them at all during that time,” explained Ryan. “They can come up and get on the field and do things on their own. But, they can’t utilize any facility where there has to be somebody there to watch them. We want them to take some time off. They need a little bit of down time because we have been pushing them real hard. But, we’ve also talked them about going to the ‘Y’ if they are members to work out, or make sure they do pushups, situps and pullups. They can do those at home. They know what they need to be doing there. If they need to get out and do some running they can get out in their neighborhoods and find some hills to run. We don’t want them to lose what they’ve gained up to this point.”
When the Mustangs return after the compulsory respite, Ryan said it will be time to get serious and put the majority of summer activities behind them.
“Playtime is over. We’ve told all our parents, starting in January, if they can’t get vacation during dead period, take it before dead period, because when we come back it’s football. It’s a blink and it’s (the season) is here after we get back from dead period. And we’ve got a busy, busy schedule,” said the Mustang coach.
The involved schedule includes 7-on-7 scrimmages with Hixson and Boyd-Buchanan inside “The Corral.” The Mustangs will travel to Heritage High School, in Ringgold, Ga., for a 7-on-7 tournament before a three-way scrimmage with Karns and Hixson the first Saturday after putting on full pads. All this around two-a-day practices beginning July 22 and a three-day mini-camp the last three days of July.
“The camp will be from 9 a.m. until ‘9 p.m.-plus’ at night. It will be three all-day, three practices a day type of deal. There will be a lot going on when we get back from dead period,” said Ryan.
Ryan and staff have been pleased with what they have seen from the Mustangs in the weight room and conditioning field so far this summer. He is particularly pleased with the progress of the large group of freshmen who have come in and already begun making a mark.
“The guys are working their tails off; the only problem is we are super young. We've got right around 90 players out, but 50 of those are freshmen. But, that freshman class is a good-looking group. They have come in here and haven't backed down from anything. Some of those guys are vying for some starting positions come fall,” said the coach.
“That’s kind of a double-edged sword. I kind of makes you wonder about next year, but it speaks well for out future. And that's what we are trying to do (build for the future). I knew it wasn't going to be an overnight thing. We want to build this right and we want to make sure the foundation is solid so when we do start going up we will go up and continue to go up and not crumble somewhere along the way.”
The coach has also been pleased with the numbers showing up for the nonmandatory workout and conditioning sessions. Ryan said also the attitude has been good and considering all the added distractions summer has to offer, the results are showing the Mustangs are picking up on the ideology presented by the coaching staff.
"Our kids are buying into the philosophy we are teaching as far as taking ownership and taking responsibility. We've had right at 70 here every day. When you consider summer with kids on vacation, church camps and all the things that go on during the summer, we've felt real good. This is the biggest number (for summer workouts) on a consistent basis we've had since I've been at this school,” said Ryan. “That tells me a lot about these kids. They are here. They're coming to workouts and not missing. We talk to them every day about how you can't get better sitting at home. They are buying into that. They are showing up and going through the workouts."
The Monday through Thursday weight sessions also include a trip to what is affectionately refered to as “The Pit” by the Mustangs’ coach which includes flipping tractor tires, swinging sledge hammers, carrying logs and using battle ropes.
"It gives us a chance to see who really wants to get better. You can't have a football right now so you just have to gage based on toughness and that is where ‘The Pit’ comes in. We work on getting stronger in the weight room, but the pit lets us see more who is going to be tough and fight through being tired and continue to give it everything they've got," said Ryan.
"It simulates what we're looking for out of who will be on that field for us on Friday nights. We want those guys who aren't going to quit and lay down when things get tough. We want the ones who will keep fighting through. That's where "The Pit" comes in, we are going to see who those fighters are."
During the time off, Ryan wants his Herd to get plenty of rest, but hopes also they will do enough on their own to stay sharp and cut down on the time it takes to condition for the upcoming season.
“Our quarterbacks and receivers get together and throw on their own, which is a good thing. They are allowed to do that as long as we (coaches) are not around. Our quarterback all have a ball and they will call up the receivers and they will get together in the evenings and go to the park or come to the practice field and throw. We’ve also got one of our quarterbacks at Furman’s camp along with a couple of receivers which I think is a real good thing. It’s a great camp and they do a great job there. Hopefully, he will come back a little more polished,” he said. “Then, when we get back from dead period we’ll get going.”