When coaches around the area went to sleep on July 31, they crossed a threshold. Waking up in August, programs around the state entered the WIAA’s dramatically-nicknamed “dead period.” Two and a half weeks without any sort of football activity with teams, until fall camps are allowed to open on Aug. 17. And while voluntary open gyms are allowed, the balls and pads and helmets have to be locked up.
“Guys get in, get their stuff done, get out, enjoy these last two weeks, and get their minds ready to go for the season,” W.F. West coach Dan Hill said.
So for the coaching staffs around the area, it’s a similarly low-key time, to get a few final fishing trips in and take the mind off football, right?
“Our coaching staff likes to look at Aug. 1 as our day as coaches to start,” Onalaska coach Mazen Saade said. “You can’t coach kids on Aug. 1, but our seasons truly start.”
For Saade and his staff, that means a boatload of clinics and certifications, covering everything from this year’s rule changes to tackling best practices, and from first-aid training to concussion safety. Over at Winlock, Ernie Samples is on much the same route, though he said that there were a few extra forms sprung on him late, with two weeks to sort everything out.
Meanwhile, coaches get extra time for their favorite activity: watching tape. With film from early summer camps and practices in hand, there’s plenty to go over. Saade called in for an interview from an unlit room with a remote in hand and a reel on a screen. Toledo’s Mike Christensen, meanwhile, saves his film study for the night in the name of keeping a work-life balance for a few more weeks if possible.
“We watch so much film and we try to gameplan everything,” he said. “I could always watch a little more film, maybe I get one more thing out of it, but you’ve got to separate that from family time. I do most of my film study after everyone else goes to sleep in my house.”
That’s a trick coaches have learned through experience; even without practices on the schedule, it’s possible to go too far down the rabbit hole of play design, scheme, and film at the expense of an outside life in the last few weeks of the summer.
“It’s a balance,” Samples said. “I’m not going to push myself too crazy. I have a five-and-a-half year-old son, so a lot of the time it’s chasing him around.”
Samples and Hill both said they left town to see family or go on vacation, while Christensen took his family to a Mariners game. For many coaches, the last weeks in July turn into a truer sort of off period, getting any needed R&R in before the paperwork and preparation that comes with August hits.
Because once it hits, everything starts getting real fast, all at once.
“Each year you learn something new,” Saade said. “Obviously you have things you do yearly, but you always find new things each year. Each August, you always realize, ‘Hey, next August we need to look at this.’”