My daughter sent me a picture of my two grandsons walking into Middle School football practice this week. They are cousins and this is their first year of Middle School football. One is a strong armed QB the other is a short fast WR. Both love the game.
It brought back memories of August 2 a days that I endured in Jr. High. No water, salt pills and wind sprints. Pretending to take the salt pill was a game we played with the coaches. My grandsons were shocked we had practices twice a day. I told them it helped make me a man. Even the puking. This was mid 60’s at Dollarway Pine Bluff. Coach Harris and I remained friends till his death. Wouldn’t want to do it again but would not trade anything for the experience.
My junior high coach at Pulaski Heights was Woody Jolley. I firmly believed that his true joy came from us having to run a death hill at the end of practice until we puked. I remember expressing that to my dad thinking he’d do something about it (and maybe had the power to do something). He smiled and laughed and said, “You begged to play football. Enjoy it, son. Embrace that hill.” I have driven by there and it’s no longer there. A gym is there. That’s a good place to put a gym.
Oh my. I remember the shock to my system when I started football practice in 8th grade with the 2 a days. Why I wasn’t aware of what to expect is beyond me, I had lots of older friends who played football. It was almost enough to make me not want to play. Like Clay, I think my coach (Ronnie Jones, don’t know what happened to him after he left Paragould a couple of years later) enjoyed watching us suffer. I never puked, but a lot of guys did. It was the no water that killed me. I could have handled it a lot better (and I think ended up in better shape, but I am no expert on the topic) if we had had water readily available.
I almost didn’t go out for high school football even though I had been a starter in Jr. High because I hated 2 a days so much. I will say, back then, we didn’t work out in the summer. 2 a days were probably the only way to get us into shape.
My senior year, we had THREE a days for the first couple of weeks. First one was from like 6:30 to 8:30 or 9. Then from noon until 2:00 and back again at 5:00 until who knows when. The middle one wasn’t as hard, it was more actually learning things than just running sprints, etc. But still.
My junior high coach was firmly in the no water, salt pill camp. Dunno how some of us didn’t wind up in the hospital. But we knew it was coming. I’d go run at noon in July to get ready. But nothing really prepared you for 95 degrees, 80% humidity and no wind.
By high school the coach was relatively enlightened. One 5-minute hydration break during practice, but never water. Always Gatorade with extra salt added; we called it swamp water. Once you got used to it the taste wasn’t too bad. I’ll never forget a couple of our cheerleaders asked for a cup of swamp water during an early September game; the looks on their faces when they got all that salt was priceless.
Whew 2 a days anywhere in AR weren’t pleasant. We practiced on an Unmaintained practice field that was mostly dry dirt hard as a rock.
Some salty red stuff (acupucky I think it was called) we got to drink at the one break during evening practice. If you could choke it down. I think Gatorade came out my junior year. Was afraid to drink that at first to because it looked like urine in that big Cow (we called it) with all of the hoses coming off of it. Wore the same practice gear all week to, so the the smell you just got used to.
Good times looking back tho.
Somehow I’ve never been a puker. Not in two a days, not running track, not running marathons. Even though our running joke in track practice after a series of 440-yard sprints was “feeding the crickets”. The crickets remained hungry, at least from me. I’m sure I had a coach or two who was disappointed he couldn’t get me to hurl, or thought that meant I wasn’t trying hard enough. I discovered other gastrointestinal effects when I was running marathons, though…
I went to a different kind of school. Our coach not only let us drink, he would pass out Ripple and Boone’s Farm along with the occasional reefer. Everyone of our cheerleaders was named Mary Jane and their whole cheer routine was a chorus of “Oh Wows!” A lot of times coach would say just to cover up the tackling dummies. Every now and then he would have an existential conversation with one of the dummies which went on for hours while we listened to Moby Grape and Ultimate Spinach. We didn’t win a game but really no one cared.
Oh I remember those 2 a days,we had 2 weeks of them, practiced from 8-11 and 430-730.I had one of those coaches believed that practice was going to be WAY harder than any game.We only had about 40 players so most of us had to go both ways .He was right though,I never ever got real tired in the game bc of that.
These kids nowdays would never be mentally strong enough to do that,they stay inside in the AC playing video games instead of being outside in the heat playing ball all day with our friends.
I was a RB and was in my three point stance waiting for the snap when Coach Hicks (6’6’ around 300 lbs) kicked me in the butt. Of coarse it knocked me down and he stood over me screaming. Can’t remember why. But whatever it was I was sure never to do it again.
Does anyone remember Lou Holtz’s three-a-days? I was a lowly walk-on kicker in the Spring of 78 and we had several three-a-days that Spring (Saturdays and maybe a couple during Spring Break or something). Us kickers just had to run the sprints and hang out in the practice fields south of the stadium kicking but it was pretty rough on the rest of the guys. Heat was not an issue but it seems like we had a 7 am for about an hour, a second practice around 11 for an hour or more and then finished the day around 4 with two hours. Everyone got a t-shirt after the second half of the Red White game in Little Rock was cancelled due to Tornado Warnings. It said something like “I made it through Spring 1978” with a Hog on it or something like that.
The salt tablets were also an Army thing into the 70s. I remember taking them in ROTC camp, then I came home and wasn’t taking them. It was August and a friend wanted me to haul some bails of hay, the rectangular ones that weighted 60-80 pounds. I guess my body thought I still had salt tablets, because 30 minutes in, my clothes were soaked and white. 45 minutes in and I passed out. Happened a couple of more times for the same reason–stopped taking salt tablets. Even today, I overly salt my food.
And, back to 2 a days (Summers of 1965-68) I remember our clothing smelling so strongly of ammonia that I’m surprised we didn’t have more people suffer from heat related issues.
During the summers of 66-68, I worked in Fayetteville where my two brothers had an apartment. I had the opportunity to work out at the stadium and Razorback facility, which wasn’t much. They had one universal machine and some free weights with a swinging tire on a rope to throw. The trainer took care of me, giving me bags of footballs and water. They even let me use the showers. There were a few others working, mostly high school kids. We ran the stadium steps, which were not nearly as bad as they are now. I don’t recall whether we took salt tablets, but I do remember sweating a lot and feeling dizzy a few times.
I remember after one of those hot, humid summer pre-season practices, waiting in line with some of the other players at the one water fountain (outside the study hall) our high school had, when one of our team leaders ran up and yelled at us to “quit tanking up on water after practice or you’ll never get in shape!”. How attitudes about hydration have changed in the ensuing 50-plus years (for the better)! It’s a miracle none of us ever suffered heat exhaustion or heat stroke. And yes, we took salt tablets, which were awful.
Speaking of tablets, when I was a junior, our coach told me to get some “Wate-on” pills to try to add some weight to my skinny frame. I weighed a whopping 130 lbs., soaking wet. I thought he might be kidding but I checked at our local drug store and they actually had them. I took them for a while, but don’t think they ever made me gain an ounce…I don’t know what was in them, but man did they taste bad.
Danny Ford had three-a-days in Miami for the CarQuest Bowl. He thought that was a good idea to keep players from partying on South Beach. He forgot to remember that they would eventually have to play a game. You have that approach for a bowl game, or the Houston Nutt approach for the Las Vegas Bowl? The Hogs had no curfew and eventually no real cares about playing UNLV. They were partied out. I did not realize that until much later. I didn’t hear any of the stories until months later.