By COLLIN BROOKS
Well before the clock struck midnight on Sunday night, the David Crockett football team was putting in work to prepare for their first official practice of the season. As soon as midnight hit, the Pioneers flipped on the lights at their field and had one of their most intense practices in recent memory, according to Coach Jeremy Bosken.
“Our goal is that we want to be the first team practicing in Tennessee and we want to be the last team playing in Tennessee. That is our goal year-in-and-year-out,” he said.
All-in-all the Pioneers were together for almost 28 hours from Sunday through Monday evening, sleeping only about three hours. The rest of the time was spent doing team building exercises, practicing, lifting weights or conditioning.
Beyond the team building that develops over the night, the schedule also gives the coaches a chance to see who will stand up and lead and who may walk away from the team.
“It’s a bonding experience,” Bosken said. “When you can take away sleep and you can wear kids out, they have to lean on each other. They learn that they can’t do it by themselves. Once they go through this and everything that we put them through, they are so invested that, if they aren’t going to quit during that, then they aren’t going to quit during the fourth quarter.”
Just before midnight hit, the coaches drafted team members into smaller groups that competed in football drills, tug-of-war and a dodgeball tournament. The group of winners got to enjoy snow cones and watermelon just after 2:30 a.m. while the other groups had to go through a bit of extra conditioning.
“It’s a big bonding experience and I think kicking off the season like this gets us close and really get us ready to go out and practice and compete together in games,” defensive lineman Kyle Mann said.
Mann was in the group that won the night, so he and his group didn’t have to participate in the extra conditioning and they got to enjoy snow cones and watermelon as other playes were forced through conditioning. However, they didn’t get to escape a 5:30 a.m. 35-minute run in which the 40-plus members of the team had to hold onto a heavy rope and run in unison.
Senior Justin Wade took an introspective view of the run, noting that it was somewhat enjoyable to see the sun rise at the school. But, the rest of the night was pure hard work and toughness according to the wideout.
“It was just a really cool bonding experience to be out running with your brothers as the sun came up,” Wade said. “It’s tiring, but in a good way. We are struggling and suffering, but it is with our brothers and that is what this is about. Getting closer as a unit. This is the closest team that we have ever had.”
But more than building up their conditioning, Bosken said that the run showed the guys that the closer they stick together, the easier that things can be.
“The farther they were from each other on the rope, the harder it was. But the tighter they got on the rope, they were able to run together,” Bosken said.
The Pioneers weren’t able to hold the midnight practice last year, but it made a return this season and with the playoff ban being lifted, it seem to bring a new energy to the team.
“The kids know it and it is pretty obvious,” Bosken said. “That was probably the most physical midnight madness I have ever been around.”
It will also be a midnight madness that all of the players will remember, according to one of their captains.
“It is something that you will remember during your entire life,” said Wade, who along with Justin Eib, Levi Summers, Josh Johnston, T.K. Hill and Cole Ricker were named team captains. “These are memories that we will reflect on when we get older and we will look back and smile.”