Although the 2013-14 school year at South Tama County doesn't begin until Aug. 26 and the temperatures feel more like something of mid-September, the three STC fall athletics teams began their seasons Monday.
The STC cross country team was the first to practice this fall. The Trojans' runners held their opening practice Monday morning. Meanwhile, the STC volleyball team practiced in the gym later that morning and the STC football team took to the practice field that evening. As of 8 p.m. Monday, the STC fall athletics teams
"It's weird, because the Gator Bowl is happening before school starts," STC volleyball coach Michelle Bradley said. "It feels weird. I don't know why, but it feels weird. Usually we have all of the girls here so I can announce it's the Gator Bowl, but I'm just hoping we have a good showing at our scrimmage."
Temperatures all week have been in the upper 70s, which has helped make it an unseasonably cool summer. The football team has enjoyed the cooler weather, while the volleyball team has done the same, as the STC gym hasn't been quite as hot.
"It does make it easier," STC volleyball coach Michelle Bradley said of the cooler weather. "We're in the conditioning mode of things, so I'm working them out pretty hard. We're really incorporating everything to get their core stronger before we start playing."
STC football coach Jay Hoskey agreed.
"The weather has been unbelievably good," Hoskey said. "Right now, you could say it's Sept. 29 or Oct. 1. This makes it a lot easier. We've had about three or four weeks of this nice weather."
Here's a look at the STC volleyball and football teams' first days of the 2013 season.
South Tama's football season essentially began last week when the Trojans held their annual preseason camp. They were on the field for four days before taking last Friday off. Once practice officially began Monday, the Trojans were up to speed and already running normal practices.
"It's going to take some to knock the rust off and tweak some things that we are changing," Hoskey said. "The kids are getting the basics, but you can tell there is a difference between talent and talent with experience. The kids that have mediocre or better ability that have been through the system for two or three years are catching on a lot quicker this time of year."
The Trojans began installing their offensive and defensive schemes last week. The extra time has allowed them more practice time to focus on improving and understanding those schemes. Of course, there's been plenty of conditioning, too.
"We're making some mistakes, but we're slowly but surely we're going to make gains every practice hopefully," Hoskey said. "The complexity of the offense is a little more than last year, so that's a little addition. I think it will be good in the long run if we can get it down, because it will allow us to use all of our parts."
South Tama's players were able to wear shoulder pads at Wednesday's practice. On Friday, the Trojans will officially be able to practice in full pads. It's been a day both coaches and players have long awaited.
"This time of year, once we put the pads on in a few days, we'll really see who the football players are," Hoskey said Tuesday. "We can't really smack each other yet. On Friday, we'll have a good one before the weekend."
Hoskey said the football program has almost 40 players out this fall, which is about the same as last year and more than it's had in previous years. Much like the other fall teams, the football team will have two full weeks of practice completed before school starts Aug. 26. The Trojans' first game will be Aug. 30 at Nevada.
"Teenagers, more than anything, do better with a routine," Hoskey said. "Once we get back to school, we'll have school and then practice. Then we'll have scout days, heavy days during the middle of the week. They seem to respond better and focus better with a routine."
The South Tama volleyball season also unofficially started before Monday. In fact, for Bradley and many of her players, it's been going since June. During the summer, the Trojans' coach opened up the gym for voluntary workouts.
"We've kind of been at it all summer," Bradley said. "I've held open gyms all summer. I can't tell the kids to come, but most of them have been very good about getting here. We've been working in some new plays, so there will be good stuff this year. I had between 10 and 20 girls here all summer."
Many of the volleyball players were also busy with softball this summer. However, that didn't stop them from working on their fall volleyball skills during the morning open gym sessions.
"Even some of the softball girls came in," Bradley said. "I'd have open gym at 10 and run until however long they wanted to play, which was usually an hour. Then the softball girls would take off and they would lift at 9 before coming in to the gym."
Two weeks ago, Bradley invited a coach from Morningside College in Sioux City to host a camp at STC. Last week, Bradley held her own preseason camp. During the camp, the Trojans worked on some fundamentals, while also improving their offense and defense on the court.
South Tama also started its jumping program last week. Bradley introduced the program last year to help improve her players' vertical jump. It worked a year ago so she brought it back, although it's a tough program that is bittersweet for the athletes.
"The girls are already seeing results," Bradley said. "They don't like it a lot, but they know it helps. When you see progress after a week, you know it's working. I have them check at the net and see their progress. I make sure that's part of my practice plan so they can see the progress they are making."
The volleyball program also has around 40 players this fall. That includes seven seniors and about 12 freshmen, along with many sophomores and juniors. Almost half of the team has been working on volleyball for weeks, which is helping make the early season practices run smoother for players and coaches.
"We don't have to focus so much on the fundamental things," Bradley said. "I have them all back, except three, so they know what to expect. Things have just fallen into place once we started."
The freshman team begins its season Aug. 31 at the Dike-New Hartford tournament. The varsity and junior varsity teams will start Sept. 3 at Grinnell.
Editor's Note: The STC cross country team's opening days of the fall season will be the feature of story in next week's Toledo Chronicle.