HomeOpinionOPINION: Team building happens mostly in heated practice before games start

OPINION: Team building happens mostly in heated practice before games start

Chase McGrath’s appearance at The Church at Sugar Creek on Friday night was a chance for football players representing local high school and middle school teams to hear about the former Tennessee kicker’s faith and how it’s affected his entire life.

And of course, there was plenty of football talk between Chase and the event’s emcee, Sam McElroy.

One thing McGrath mentioned was the bond he had with his high school teammates at Mater Dei, which is a high profile high school in California.

His high school quarterback was Bryce Young, who went to play at Alabama and win the 2021 Heisman Trophy.

Kickers aren’t typically known for the camaraderie built with teammates because they’re typically a different breed from the rest of the team.

Quarterbacks and receivers typically work together on passes. The offensive line works with those quarterbacks and running backs in protecting them from the defense. Defensive lines, secondaries and linebackers typically work in tandem trying to get to the opposing ball-carriers to stop their advancement and shutting down their scoring efforts.

But kickers … other than developing timing with the player holding the ball for them, kickers aren’t typically a key part of the group for the most part.

Of course they wear the same jersey and helmet and ride the same buses as the rest of the team, but they’re not working in tandem with the rest of the guys throughout the games.

Some of the best kickers and punters in this region in past years don’t even technically practice with the team most of the time.

Many kickers will be working on the side, working on their timing and aim, while the rest of the team is going through drills, scrimmages, walk-throughs, etc. And then when it’s time for the team to work on special teams, that’s when the kicker will join everyone else in game preparation.

But they still maintain that teamwork.

The offense may snap the ball 70 times, and the defense may line up to make 70 stops over the course of a game.

The kicker may get on the field for only a handful of plays, but anyone who respects the kicker knows their value to the team.

Special teams is referred to as a third of the game of football, and the success or failure of that phase of the game largely depends on the foot of that kicker or punter.

And even after McGrath had spent four years at Southern Cal and two at Tennessee and had matched up twice against Young and Alabama, he said they still have that bond as high school football teammates.

You could talk to members of the first football team that represented Jackson Central-Merry in 1970, and there’s a bond there that’s unbroken 53 years later – kind of in the same line as the bond between fellow soldiers who fought in battle together.

I’ve heard soldiers say when you’ve taken on enemy fire in foxhole with someone, you and that other person feel like siblings for the rest of your lives.

When a football team goes through the rigors of preseason work in the summer sun and bails on sleeping late and hours in the swimming pool because you’ve got to get up and go work out then run around in the sun for a couple hours to prepare for the first game in August, bonds between teammates are forged that aren’t soon forgotten – if ever.

So now the question is what kinds of teams are being built now on the practice fields and in the weight rooms of the high schools of Madison County?

Four of them probably look starkly different from a year ago because of new coaches. But everyone is hopefully bigger, tougher, stronger, faster than they were a year ago and more mentally prepared to compete in the fall than they were this time in 2022.

They hope it’ll translate to wins in August, September and October.

But what most of them don’t realize yet, is the work they’re putting in now will lead to results and relationships that will far outlast the playoffs in November.

Brandon Shields is the managing editor of The Jackson Post. Contact him at brandon@jacksonpost.news. Follow him on Twitter @JSEditorBrandon or Instagram @Editorbrandon.

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