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West seeks to build mental toughness
After a long morning of lifting, the West Lauderdale High School football team runs sprints across the practice field to wrap up each summer workout session.
With the players breathing heavily after each set of sprints, the temptation to bend over to catch their breath is always present.
But the Knight coaching staff won't have any of that.
"Stand up!" they bark to the players bent over with their hands on their knees. Senior wide receiver Reed Green said he understands why there's a no-bending-over rule.
"Bending down is a sign of weakness — that's what they tell us," Green said. "I understand what they're trying to make us do by not looking weak, but sometimes it gets tough, but you just have to do it."
The Knights work out from 6 to 8:30 a.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays to help prepare for the season ahead, splitting time between the weight room and practice field for strength and conditioning. Every activity goes toward preparing the team for a long season, and assistant coach Glenn Boothe said even small things like not being over are important.
"Toughness is a big thing," Boothe said. "The first thing you want to do when you get tired is bend over and show people you're hurting. That's one thing we're pushing here, that we don't want people to see us hurt. We want our guys to be standing tall in the fourth quarter."
But there's more to it than simply projecting an image of strength.
"What they don't realize is, when you bend over, it cuts their lung capacity," Boothe said. "They recover quicker when they stand tall."
Football activities in a summer week for West include their three workout days plus Tuesdays at Meridian High School for 7-on-7s.
"This gets them ready to play," Boothe explained. "You have to have your body physically ready to play the game of football. It's a collision sport, and this helps prevent injuries and gets them ready for the heat. When we start in August, we're looking at 100-degree days, and if they're in good physical condition, they're going to deal with that a whole lot better."
Players like Green understand the importance of showing up every day and getting into shape so they're not behind when fall camp rolls around, Green said.
"It's very important to be conditioned for the season," Green said. "We work out three days a week, early in the morning, and we're just getting better from it."
Green said he's been pleased with his teammates' participation in the summer, especially amongst the younger players.
"We have a bunch of eighth and ninth graders coming out, and I think this is more than we normally have," Green said. "It's been a real good summer so far."
And Green said, as a senior, he's looking to help show the younger guys how to go about things the right way.
"Being at workouts and giving your best and trying to compete and beat everyone around you is the right attitude to have," he said.
Getting to practice at 6 a.m. is a lot earlier than most people normally begin their day, but Green said he's gotten accustomed to football activities at the break of dawn.
"It's gotten a lot easier," he said. "My first year here was in 10th grade, and it was pretty tough then, but every year it's been getting a lot easier, and now it's just habit of getting up in the morning."
The early mornings aren't meant to be an inconvenience for the Knights. Rather, they're the best time to get everyone out to workouts without it interfering with other parts of their days, Boothe said.
"It's all about missing other things," Boothe said. "They all have jobs going on and other stuff going on with their lives, so we try not to interfere with that. This tends to be the best time to do that."
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