Tuesday, July 26, 2011

SPORTS>>Bears’ numbers rising

Special to The Leader

Summer football practices are a good time for coaches to gauge a little of what to expect when regular practices start while helping the players get ready and get in shape.

One thing coach Jim Withrow has noticed about Sylvan Hills is that he’s got a few more Bears to work with this year.

“Our numbers are really looking better all around,” Withrow said. “We’ve had a few down years in terms of numbers, but it looks like we’re cycling back up.”

The Bears are looking at 55-60 players on the varsity team, but the biggest change may be in the younger players with the freshman and eighth-grade teams. Those foundations of the high schools’ future are in the neighborhood of 40 players each after having close to half that number in recent years.

To get these Bears ready for two-a-day practices and the season, Sylvan Hills spends one day concentrating on lifting and running and every Monday in July they have attended team camps at a nearby college with Lonoke, Pulaski Robinson and Maumelle.

The team camps put all 11 players on the field in shorts, shoulder pads and helmets. One team’s defense will stay on the field for 12 plays, while two offenses rotate in and out against that defense while one team rests.

Sylvan Hills has cut out seven on seven football to instead concentrate on the team camp.

“With team camp we get to work with the linemen and that’s a bug plus,” said Withrow. “I’ve talked with them and they love it. Some of these guys wouldn’t have the chance to really do anything but work out and lift during the summer, and this lets them get out, play football and help get acclimated to the heat.”

The Bears moved away from the passing heavy 7-on-7, since so many of the formations and routes would never be used in an actual high school game.

“It comes down to doing what you think will help your program the most,” said Withrow. “If you do it and it works for you and you get a trip to Washington, D.C. for a big tournament or whatever, then that’s great. But for us, lifting and team camp is the most beneficial.”

The final team camp was Monday morning and the final day of lifting is Thursday. Two-a-days begin Monday, with full pads coming on Thursday.

“I’ve had guys wondering if we’re going full pads the first practice on Monday,” said Withrow. “But really they’ve been hitting pretty hard all summer. There’s no going low on someone, and you’re not supposed to take anyone to the ground, but this is football so you’re going to have some hitting out there.”

Sylvan Hills will be at practice from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. every day leading up to the first day of school.

The exception is the week of teacher meetings, where there will be one practice in the evenings.