Practices heat up for Bulldogs
Sins of the summer came back to haunt many Baldwin High School athletes Monday. The first day of practice for all sports quickly showed who'd been naughty or nice during the off time.
And, there's was no excuse because of the weather when Monday morning rolled around it was actually cool compared to what the recent weeks of summer have been like.
"We were happy with the weather although I was hoping for some rain," said Mike Berg, BHS head football coach. "Things went well. There were a couple of kids say they'd wished they'd done more this summer, but there were a lot of people going full speed."
And, there were a lot of people. For the second year in a row, Berg had the largest-ever turnout for Baldwin High football. There were 82 show up Monday and there's a possibility of a couple more showing up. Last year there were 76. The year before Berg took over the program four years ago, there were 34 out for football.
"I'm very pleased with the numbers," said Berg.
There was another big jump in another sport. First-year volleyball coach Jill Brown welcomed 45 to practice Monday afternoon. It almost doubled last year's 23.
"It's up quite a bit," said Brown. "It's great, but you don't know what to do with all of them. We'll get it taken care of. We had 30 for volleyball camp and that's about what I expected to come out.
"It's good to have that many out and I'm excited," she said.
Brown outlined 14 "stations" with different drills that the girls will be doing to improve their skills. The BHS volleyball squad will also be learning a different approach to the game.
"I do want to make some changes," Brown said. "We're doing a different defense and some different things on offense. In these two weeks we've got to get ready, we've got a lot of changes to make. I think the girls are ready to change, too."
Also experiencing a gain in numbers was cross country coach Mike Spielman. There are 17 girls out this year, up from the record of 12 a year ago. On the boys side, 15 are out, which is about the same as a year ago for the two-time defending Class 4A state champions.
"This is the biggest group of girls we've ever had," said Spielman. "That's exciting. It should be a really good season for us.
"Some of the kids have done some stuff this summer, so that will help," he said.
Of course in typical Spielman fashion, he's not making too much too soon about his champion boys. The term "three-peat" wasn't uttered.
"We've got a good nucleus back. We should be among those teams to beat," he said. "I haven't got a feel for it yet. We'll be all right."
Girls tennis numbers were steady. Coach Ginny Honomichl had 30 last year and that's what she's got this year. And, that's fine by her.
"I guess that's not a priority of mine," Honomichl said. "We just deal with who shows up."
While graduation took a toll on all four programs, Honomichl's was probably the roughest. Four of her graduates went on to play college tennis this year and were an integral part in the team's second-place finish at state last year.
"My feeling about this season is we're going to be thin in quality varsity experience," she said. "But, we've got Holly Oakleaf and Suzie Weege back who were state qualifiers last year."
Honomichl said that's just part of the cycles that all high school programs go through. It also presents a different challenge for her.
"Things are pretty wide open and that's pretty exciting, too," said Honomichl, who just received her Kansas coach of the year honor a couple of weeks ago. "You've got to coach differently every year. Some years you just drive the bus and others you have to do some coaching."
Berg knows all about those coaching changes, too. This year he's benefiting from the 33 upperclassmen who have been in his system and played for him for three years.
"The kids have really picked it up. They're faster and more confident," said Berg. "We've got a lot of kids that this is their third year in the program for them and it shows.
"We don't have to teach them everything. They know what they're suppose to do, how to do it and they're doing it," he said. "The underclassmen pick up on that, too."
There are 18 sophomores and 31 freshmen out this year. It's the biggest freshmen squad since Berg took over. Last year there were 27 freshmen out and that number dropped by nine as sophomores.
Monday's first round of two-a-days were split with offense in the morning and defense in the evening. The remainder of the practices will have both sides of the ball worked evenly. Berg and his staff will be teaching huddles and formations, with new plays and stunts added each day.
Thursday's practices are the first in full pads. The morning session will be light, but it will be full contact in the evening. There will be a scrimmage around 7 p.m., which the community is invited to attend, and the Knights of Columbus will have the annual watermelon feed afterward around 8 p.m.