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Saints begin 2010

Posted Friday, August 20, 2010 by Sean Ladyga
Posted Aug 18, 2010 @ 11:05 PM

One by one, the St. Bernard football coaches came into their office Wednesday and greeted one another. It was just over eight months since they were last together on the Saints’ sideline.

An assistant coach strolled into the room, grinning. He stretched his hand out to each of his colleagues and shook it firmly.

“Today, we’re no longer 0-10,” he said.

That’s right, everybody is undefeated now.

Wednesday marked the first day of practice for many Eastern Connecticut teams, more specifically those who decided to forego practicing for 10 days in the spring. The teams who chose the latter option will begin Monday.

Despite a winless 2009 season, one during which first-year Saints head coach Sean Ladyga said he and his team “took their lumps,” the second-year coach was optimistic as he got his first look at this season’s team.

“It gets to the point when you get to the end of the summer and you’re getting the itch. You get frustrated; you’re starting to get angry at each other,” Ladyga said. “We were waiting for today. It’s a new season, a new year. It’s a brand-new team.”

Some teams aren’t used to starting practice in the fall. Bacon Academy coach Duane Maranda’s team previously opted to practice in the spring. He said the strategy works for a larger school such as Bacon that has students playing many sports in the spring.

Maranda said he would’ve waited until the fall last season, but he was bringing in a new coaching staff and chose to hold spring practices to have a chance for the newcomers to meet each other and acclimate themselves to the program. Now, with his staff having a season’s worth of experience to their credit, Bacon, which finished last season at 6-4, held its first practice Wednesday with almost 80 players in attendance.

It’s a much larger turnout than the average of 20 players Maranda typically saw in any given spring practice.

“It can be harder in the spring to drag kids away, to get kids into football mode,” Maranda said. “Now, as soon as Aug. 1 hits, everyone’s thinking about football. I don’t have to call a kid and make sure he’s here for practice. If they’re here today, they want to play.”

It’s hard to pry students away from all the other sports, work or school commitments and social events that come from the spring and summer months.

“In the spring, kids have other commitments with jobs, studying for finals, and playing other sports,” said Woodstock coach Gary Brine, who had about 60 players come out for the first day of practice. “You can’t get your core of kids. Once August comes around and we have our meeting, kids know it’s football time. Their mentality is that it’s time to get ready.”

Ladyga cited the risk for injury and the fact that teams only get a couple days of full-contact practice as reasons why he doesn’t like to practice in the spring.

Conversely, for a smaller school such as St. Bernard, it is more difficult to get players to practice in the spring. With most athletes entrenched in playing spring sports such as baseball, lacrosse or track, the 10 days of practice don’t translate to results.

“Getting the kids out for football, it’s just not beneficial for the 10 days,” Ladyga said. “We’d rather work, lift and condition with the guys we have, and, in the summertime, we work even harder to get the extra four or five days’ preparation before anyone else does, and that’s their choice.”

But it’s the proverbial clean slate that has every program, no matter how successful they were the season before, feeling positive on the first day of practice.

“You learn from what you did a year ago and you try to improve on everything,” Ladyga said. “Whether you’re 10-0 or 0-10, there’s room for improvement. ... It’s a different feeling. It’s an exciting feeling.”

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