It's only the first full week of August, but the excitement around the fall sports season is building at South Tama County High School.
On Monday, the football, volleyball and cross country teams officially began their seasons with the first day of practice. All three sports started Monday morning and excitement was in the air, from the coaches to the players.
"I think everybody is really excited for the season to finally be here," STC volleyball senior Jade Rohach said. "It should be a fun season."
South Tama County senior Kyle Stephenson, center, runs through teammates during an offensive drill at practice Monday evening. The Trojans officially started practice Monday morning. Their first game will be Aug. 24 at home.
Rohach's coach, Michelle Bradley, was also exciting about beginning the volleyball season.
"I hope the players are having fun," Bradley said. "They go out of here pretty sweaty and stinky. I feel like they're having a good time and I'm having a great time. I'm a gym rat. I could be in here five hours, so if they want to be here five hours, I'll be here five hours."
While the volleyball team battles the warm STC gym, the football and cross country teams have been practicing in mild temperatures for early August. While temperatures were reaching upper 90s and triple digits earlier in the summer, they've cooled back down this week.
"It's a bit cooler temperatures," STC cross country coach George Kuhter said. "It was in the 70s when we started, but by the time 9 o'clock rolls around, it's in the 80s, it's not that nice. The rest of this week is supposed to be cool."
Both teams have been practicing in the morning to avoid the heat, too. The football team has also been coming back during the evening for their annual two-a-days.
"Practice has been good," STC football senior Clay Waterbury said. "It's about as expected. It's not as hot as we thought it would be. However, we put on pads tomorrow, so it will get a lot hotter then."
The Trojans' football team put on pads for the first time Wednesday. After a team camp two weeks ago and the first few days of practice, the players were ready to put on pads and hit someone.
"I'm one of the smaller guys, but it's still exciting," Waterbury said.
Coach Jay Hoskey has been happy with his players' effort during the first days of the season. He knows they will begin to get more tired and sore after practicing with pads, but he hopes they continue learning and playing hard.
"We've had a good effort," Hoskey said. "I feel we are way ahead of where we've been the past couple of years. We're more complex, too. The kids are picking up on things above and beyond what we were doing. Right now, we're trying to incorporate some new offense. We're doing a lot of mental work, but at the same time, it's physical work.
"These two-a-days get to be a grind, but so far they're hanging in there," he said. "We'll see tomorrow when we put on pads. That usually separates the Sunday-afternoon-play-in-the-park ball players from the real ones."
All three teams have benefited from work put in during the summer. Members of the volleyball team attended voluntary open gym sessions twice a week. Bradley she had around 10-20 girls on average attending the voluntary sessions. They also attended a team camp and played in the Iowa State Games.
Some runners on the STC cross country teams have logged miles this summer in preparation for the season. The football players held their team camp in late July and have been conditioning, too. All three coaches believe the extra work will pay dividends later in the season.
"We're doing really well," Bradley said. "I've been with the girls all summer. We had open gym all summer. I feel like our second day of practice wasn't out second day of practice. It feels like our third month of practice. I'm really proud of the girls for committing all summer. Even in the 102-degree heat, they were here and working hard. We had two fans in the gym, but it was quite warm in here. They were committed and here all summer."
Kuhter said some of his runners logged miles this summer and it's showing already.
"Some did a little bit of summer running," Kuhter said. "The ones that are doing the summer running are the most dedicated, but these kids are busy enough. They're in decent shape, so we're in good shape."
The extra work in the summer has helped the football and volleyball teams move past learning the fundamentals during the opening days of practice. Coaches and players have rejoiced in that fact.
"The fundamentals are all out of the way, so now we can move on to the next stage," Bradley said. "I talked to coach Kupka and we feel we are at a point now where we can tweak things, instead of having to learn things. I changed our defense this year and I'm switching some things up on our offense. So far, it's worked. Now, we are tweaking those things. The girls see things better and they adjust. It's when they critique themselves when you know things are flying."
"I feel like we got everything rolling in the summer," Rohach said. "We don't have to start everybody from the beginning. We are now where we should be starting the season."
Of course, with the opening days of practice comes soreness and fatigue. For the volleyball players, it began Monday when they started their jumping program. They are doing it three times a week and many players left the opening practice sore.
"Very sore," Rohach said. "I woke up this morning and I couldn't even roll out of bed. It hurt so bad."
Hoskey said the football team is a bit tired and sore, but they will be more after the first day or two of pads.
"They're sore and they're aching," Hoskey said. "It's sort of a rite of passage and they have something in common with anyone who's play high school football."