A very Spartan summer: BHS football team begins initial season training

Returning Spartan football player and BHS senior Gareth Grindeland makes his way through speed and agility drills Wednesday, July 16.   - Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review
Returning Spartan football player and BHS senior Gareth Grindeland makes his way through speed and agility drills Wednesday, July 16.
— image credit: Luciano Marano | Bainbridge Island Review

While most teens spend their summer mornings sleeping in, playing video games or camped out on the sofa, the aspiring members of the Bainbridge High School 2014-2015 football team have been spending their days working up a sweat one speed drill at a time out on the field.

And in the weight room.

And in the pool.

It’s the start of a comprehensive take on preseason training led primarily by Tracey Criss, the Spartan’s strength and conditioning coach.

“We’re doing almost an even split weight training and conditioning and agility training,” he explained. “We’ll spend an hour a day in the weight room, which is pretty much what we dedicated last year. Last year we had about an hour and a half of field time, compared to an hour of weight time.”

Additionally, Criss said he and the other coaches were in agreement that the mental aspect of the Spartans’ game needed shaking up as well.

“I want them to be more focused on each other than on themselves,” Criss said of the team.  “For us, this year, it’s all about the camaraderie.”

Criss is one of several assistants working with returning Head Coach Andy Grimm this upcoming season as he looks to improve on last year’s disappointing football record (1-9) and return the island program — which many say is weakened by a lack of local support at the youth level — to its former glory.  According to Criss, this year’s Spartan squad so far boasts approximately 30 regular practice attendees with a total of nearly 60 expected players on the roster.

“We had a pretty good turnout this year,” he said.

“We have a lot more than we had last year; it’s pretty close to double for summer turnout this year. The guys who are on vacation have called me and let me know. Soon as they’re back, we’ll be up probably 10 or 15 more.”

Summer training officially began late last month with a four-day intensive camp and has progressed to now daily practice sessions designed to improve the players’ strength and agility.

“We have a lot of guys who have really bought into the program,” Criss said. “They’re really taking on board what we put out this year, and it’s really enjoyable to see the attitude change over the last two years with a dedicated summer program.”

Criss was quick to allay the fears of island football fans who may still be smarting from last year’s dashing, saying that the team is already head and shoulders above where the previous squad had been at this point in the season.

“We’re really preaching discipline this year,” he said. “Down to the smallest detail. Really holding these guys accountable for what they do. It’s really shifted the way they think about how they complete each single rep or each single exercise they do. It’s changed the face of how they play as a team. It’s been really enjoyable to see the guys notice it in each other.”

In an attempt to further hype up the squad, Criss has even made a personal wager with the team.

If the Spartans win the first game of the season, slated to be against North Kitsap High, Criss has promised to get a fog machine to be used during the team’s initial home games as they take the field.

“That used to be the big time kind of rivalry for us,” Criss said of North Kitsap. “That was the first game of the year every year. That game went away when we redistricted a couple of years ago, and we just got it back this year so it’s the first time playing them in a couple of years.”

Based on the early efforts of the team so far, and the overall improved skill of the players, Criss said there is a good chance he will find himself shopping for a fog machine very soon.

Before the details of pageantry can be ironed out, however, there remains summer training and the preseason to get through. So, with dreams of touchdowns and fog machines undoubtedly rolling around their minds, this year’s Bainbridge Spartans will have to get their heads down and their feet up for a few more practice sessions.

Especially popular among the team are Criss’ weekly water-based workouts, held at the Bainbridge Island Aquatics Center every Friday morning.

“We started it last year but this year it’s a little bit more intense,” he explained. “The water training is more of a conditioning specific training that we do. The guys have really enjoyed that, especially on these 85 degree days.”

“The guys have really enjoyed that break,” he laughed. “Except for the guys who can’t swim.”



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