Football coaches weigh in on preseason camps

Some call it “lockdown.” Others prefer “Boot Camp.”

Regardless of the name, the one major question remains the same — does putting a high school football team through a preseason overnight camp make a difference performance wise?

“We try to build a lot of things into what we do,” University High coach Chad Mahaffey said. “There’s work on the field, and we’ll go to the weight room. We’ll give them down time, and we always go on a field trip. We’ve gone bowling before.

“It’s about (UHS players) coming together and developing a bond to start the season. We’ve done it since I’ve been here, and it works well.”

Few could argue with the results the Cubs netted the past two seasons, advancing to the Class 2A semifinals in 2012 before finishing as the Division II runner-up in 2013.

U-High and Redemptorist are among the Baton Rouge area teams that opted to do their camps on their school campuses last week.

UHS started its boot camp Wednesday, and Redemptorist did likewise on Thursday. Central, Plaquemine, Live Oak, St. Michael the Archangel and Port Allen, just to name a few, traveled outside the area to camps, some going to Mississippi-based sites.

Others prefer no camp, relying instead on a summer workouts to prepare players for practices in full gear and ultimately the 2014 season. Catholic High, the District 5-5A co-champion, was one of several schools that gave players last week off.

“To be honest with you, with the 7-on-7 and other workouts teams do during the summer I don’t think camps are necessary,” Northeast coach David Masterson said. “Some schools swear by them.

“I’ve heard coaches talk about being able to get so much done because for three days you have the kids in one place and there are no distractions. If you’re doing 7-on-7, you’ve probably already done most of the same things. It’s a matter of preference. I think the main benefit is team bonding.”

Mahaffey and Redemptorist coach Terence Williams concede bonding is a key element for their on-campus camps. Williams said Redemptorist started its tradition of preseason camps as coach Sid Edwards, now head coach at Central, built the Wolves into a state power a decade ago.

For Williams, there’s much more to it.

“When I played at Belaire we’d come to school and stay for a couple of days,” Williams recalled.

“I remember my sophomore year in particular. We slept in the area where the wrestlers worked out. It brought everything together, and we finished 10-0 that year.”

Unlike U-High, Redemptorist is rebuilding and coming off a 2-9 season. Building trust, for Williams, goes beyond the players.

“The kids have enjoyed it, and we’ve done a lot of team bonding with them,” Williams said. “The parents are involved too. While we’re out on the field in the morning, you’ll have the parents cooking breakfast and then serving it. That helps the parents get to know the coaches and the other players.”

This is hardly you’re circa 1960s team camp.

The Wolves ran extra sprints at Friday’s late practice because players did not know the date of the Louisiana High School Athletic Association’s select school title games or the top players for an upcoming opponent. Overnight the Wolves used smart phones to look up the answers and asked for more challenges.

Two other coaches, Glen Oaks’ Donald Clark and East Ascension’s Paul Bourgeois, offer decidedly different views.

Clark said a variety of conflicts prevent Glen Oaks from considering a camp option. Some GOHS players work summer job and others are in summer programs, including summer school classes.

“Our situation is different than a lot of schools,” Clark said. “We have a community base, but it’s more transient. Sometimes we don’t know if we’re going to keep some students or if others will transfer in.

“We have kids who are in classes or other school programs that go right up to the end of the July. That’s why we focus more on conditioning and the 7-of-7s we can put together in the afternoons.”

Bourgeois sees both sides. He took Lake Charles area Sulphur High teams to three preseason camps at an off campus site. Other teams, including his EAHS teams, have not done camps.

“The first year we did it at Sulphur it was so special that I was convinced I’d do it for the rest of my career,” Bourgeois said. “We brought in speakers and did some neat things. By the end of the third year I thought it ran its course.

“With the right situation and right group of kids, camps are good. But I don’t think we fall behind by not going to a camp. We don’t do two-a-days. For us, one one-a-days might include meetings, a practice and weight lifting which will eat up the whole morning.”