Wichita-area football teams ready for first day of practice

Nate Wollenberg, in his first season as Newton’s football coach, has done a casual survey of coaching friends about dreams. Specifically dreams about the first day of practice.

The dreams usually involve assistant coaches failing to show up, a lack of practice place, players who don’t know what to do, no equipment.

“I haven’t had that nightmare yet,” Wollenberg said, laughing, “but (I wouldn’t be surprised) if I wake up in a cold sweat, ‘do I have the kids ready? Have I done what I need to do?’”

Like most coaches across the state, he’s done plenty of work in the offseason with his assistants and players in preparation of the first practice.

All fall sports begin practice on Monday; football players cannot wear pads until Thursday.

Since coaches are allowed to work with their players through mid-July, most have already established a base defense and offense and set team standards.

“But you still have to step out the first day and set the tone, make your expectations very, very clear,” said North coach Joe Belden, who is in his first year back after previously coaching the Redskins from 2002-2005.

Mulvane coach Dave Fennewald agreed.

“We talk about it being a long season and, the good Lord gave you two ears and one mouth for a reason — listen more, pay attention, especially for the younger kids to learn offenses and defenses. It’s a long season, and we don’t play a game for three weeks, so we need to focus on getting better every practice,” Fennewald said.

Wollenberg said one of his points of emphasis will be on establishing how the team should walk to the line of scrimmage, what their stances should be. He’ll insist on hustling from drill to drill, station to station.

Since teams aren’t allowed to wear pads, Derby coach Brandon Clark considers the first three days a continuation of the Panthers’ team camp.

The lack of hitting is the perfect time to work on technique, as well as special teams.

“I’ve found the first three days, when we’re not in full equipment, there can be dead time, standing around,” Fennewald said. “We put special teams in at that time.”

The first day of practice is also perfect for conditioning.

“I expect Belden to run us into the ground,” North senior Caleb Franklin said. “Not to hold back on us at all. He’s an intense guy, so I expect an intense practice. Probably a couple people will puke.

“It’s important to end strong, but you have to start strong to gain momentum and carry it.”

Mulvane has two practices in the evenings, one from 3:30-5:15, a break for pizza, then a second practice from 6:30-8:30. Fennewald used to have a practice before school and another after during the first week, but after hearing about athletes falling asleep in class, he adjusted his schedule.

Clark has shifted his, too. Derby will meet for two hours before school, from 5:30-7:30 a.m., but it won’t be an intense practice.

“Our main focus was to stay healthy through the season,” Clark said. “So we decided to do lifting, conditioning and film before school and then have practice after school.”

At Collegiate, coach Mike Gehrer has three practices scheduled on Monday, but there’s a three-hour period where the team will go to The Alley for lunch and bowling.

“I think it builds camaraderie,” Gehrer said. “We talk a lot about being family. Family takes care of each other. Family knows things about you that no one else knows. I think it’s important.”