COVID-19 forced the cancellation of Lawrenceville’s fall interscholastic matches, but Big Red’s competitive spirit will still shine! The School’s coaches and trainers are putting the finishing touches on a comprehensive menu of skills, drills, and fitness activities that will keep Big Red athletes in top form. Harry Flaherty, head coach of the boys’ varsity football team, tells us what’s in store for his program.
High school football, without the excitement of a big Saturday matchup, could be discouraging. But Lawrenceville’s football program, led by varsity Head Coach Harry Flaherty, is determined to keep things productive, competitive, fun, and, of course, safe. All of Lawrenceville’s athletic activities will be in line with CDC guidelines and best practices.
“It’s definitely not going to be six weeks of boot camp,” Flaherty emphasized.
Before progressing to more football-specific work, Flaherty said, “We're going to start off with a lot of conditioning, do some speed work and sprinting, and body weight exercises that don't require use of equipment or contact. We’ll be taking our guidance from the experts about what is feasible under the circumstances.”
Flaherty is preparing for three possible levels of work. “The most conservative approach would be we're out there doing a lot of movement, a lot of speed and conditioning, but we're not using equipment, and we're not putting players into contact scenarios. The next level would be introducing equipment, but only with incidental or limited contact between players. We would be doing a lot of footballs-specific work, but not tackling and blocking. Best-case scenario, we would have secluded contact where we're playing the game all out, but we're not bringing other people onto campus or visiting other schools.
“[The coaching staff is] thinking of all kinds of different skill development opportunities that don't involve any contact or involve very limited contact,” he said. Working on timing, pass completion and running routes are, the coach explained, by nature socially distanced exercises.
For what Flaherty calls “the big guys in the trenches,” the team will rely on the expertise of Assistant Coaches Drew Inzer (a former NFL lineman and Division I collegiate player) and Grey Simpson, (also a former Division I college lineman). “They can lead a lot of fundamental work, drills that don't actually involve close quarters contact between two kids.” If conditions allow, the coaches are mapping out cleaning protocols (again, following CDC recommendations) that would allow student-athletes to use equipment, like blocking sleds or tackling dummies, safely.
While Flaherty, a former NFL tight end, would prefer to return to pre-pandemic football training and competition, he does see some definite positives to this new approach. “We can focus a bit more on each individual player. If there is a specific area where they have room for improvement, we can hone in a little bit more on skill development, and give them special instruction at maybe a little bit of a slowed pace, which sometimes gets lost in the craziness of having to move the team along to prepare for a game each week.”
Players, he noted, will also be able to grow physically through the strength and conditioning exercises. “Typically during the season, you're really just trying to maintain, you're not really looking to make significant gains in the weight room or out on the track,” he explained. “But I think without those games that you need to rest for and recover from, there can be a heightened focus on actual physical development, and they can make some significant gains during a season where that's usually a novelty.”
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