Today is the first day of fully-padded football practice in Berkshire County and around Massachusetts. That means the start of another football rite of passage -- two-a-day practices, or doubles.
The practices usually consist of a morning session and an afternoon or evening session. The twice-a-day schedule, mixed in with football equipment and the afternoon summer sun, can make doubles a dreadful experience.
At Mount Greylock, coach Shawn Flaherty said two-a-days are still about teaching and remaining safe. With concussions being such a hot-button issue lately, he said coaches must change the way they approach two-a-days.
"You've got to vary what you do," he said. "We don't typically hit too often. We're always going to use bags instead of going live. At times we'll go half-speed, instead of full-tilt. We're definitely not going to do any live scrimmaging and those types of things. Everything is at a half-speed or quarter-speed type of pace so we can teach the fundamentals."
Proper technique is key to limiting injury when tackling. For teams such as Greylock that do not have the deepest rosters, making it through two-a-days healthy is key.
"Right now, we're 31 strong," Flaherty said. "That's a tough number. Everybody counts, everybody matters, and we're two-tiered. We've got experienced veterans that are coming back, but that's about 10 guys. Everybody else is relatively new, or it's their first time playing varsity or high school football.
"Fundamentals and technique, that's what matters, and that's what we want to emphasize from day one all the way through the season."
Walkthroughs and unpadded sessions are great tools when teaching, but the Mounties are anxious to finally add some physicality to practice.
"It'll be nice to get some contact," senior wide receiver Mike McCormack said. "We've just been doing conditioning for the past three days, so some hitting will be nice."