BHS coaches thrilled about practices, weather
For the second straight year, weather was all the talk Monday for the opening Baldwin High School sports’ practices.
A year ago, the BHS cross country and football teams were forced to open their season with indoor practices. Lightning and thunderstorms rolled through the Baldwin City area during the morning of the inaugural practice day.
Cooler temperatures created all of the buzz Monday morning. After a week of temperatures around or above 100 degrees, a cold front moved into the area Saturday night. The temperature and humidity level dropped significantly, creating happier coaches and players.
“It was really cool this morning,” BHS cross country coach Mike Spielman said. “It was nice. The cooler temperatures are nice, but the low humidity makes so much of a difference.”
The BHS cross country, football and soccer teams practiced outside Monday morning. The volleyball squad did practice in the morning, but inside the BHS gym. The other fall sport, BHS girls’ tennis, was outside during the afternoon, which concerned coach Justin Hoffman last week. He was relieved by the cooler temperatures.
“I was a little worried last week,” Hoffman said. “We lucked out with the good weather coming early this week.”
BHS football coach Mike Berg was also happy to be practicing in cooler weather. He even said it made his players seem like they were in great conditioning shape.
“Our guys have been out in that weather for their conditioning at night,” Berg said. “So it looked like they were in really good shape when the cool weather hit Monday morning.”
Here’s a brief look at all five BHS fall teams and their opening practices.
Berg’s Bulldogs were once again the first team to begin the fall season. They were out on the practice field at 6 a.m. Monday and it couldn't have come sooner for their coach.
“I’ve been waiting for this day for a long time,” Berg said. “We had kind of a rough season last year and watching the kids work really hard this off season has made me more excited for this fall. They’ve really committed themselves.”
The Bulldogs finished the 2009 season with a record of 2-8. Since the season ended, Berg and his players have spent hundreds of hours in the weight room and on the field preparing for this season.
All 50 players began working hard Monday. The majority of those players returned from last year’s squad.
“Our first practice went as well as it could be expected,” Berg said. “We had everybody there with their physicals already turned in. There was a lot of emotion. The kids were really excited to be there.”
BHS opens its season Sept. 3 at Paola. The first home game and the Bulldog Bash is Sept. 10.
BHS cross country
Spielman’s squad of runners is loaded with talent from a year ago and he’s added several new participants on each team. Each BHS squad has 18 runners out this fall, which is an increase from last year for the girls’ team and down a couple for the boys.
“We’ve got a bunch out this year,” Spielman said. “I think it’s some of the biggest girls’ numbers we’ve ever had.”
All 36 Bulldogs met at the new BHS practice track at 6:30 a.m. Monday. They soon took to the roads as they once again aim to be two of the best teams in the state.
“We’ve had a good first couple of days,” Spielman said. “We’re just trying to get in shape and get a base early in the season. Quite a few of them have done some running this summer. Some are just getting their feet wet, but we didn’t have any troubles the first two days.”
The Bulldogs will begin their season Sept. 2 at the Anderson County Invitational in Garnett.
“They are all excited to be here,” Spielman said. “They are ready to get the season going.”
A year ago, BHS coach Kelly Brown was focused on preseason conditioning during the first few days, but not this year. She was so impressed by the shape many of her players came into the season, the Bulldogs have worked more on volleyball fundamentals than running.
“We are doing a lot of fundamentally-driven drills,” Brown said. “We’re trying to get the summer out of them. A lot of girls did a lot of stuff in the summer, including conditioning. There are a lot of girls that could not do what we are doing at this time last year. We haven’t had to condition right now, because they came in prepared this fall.”
The Bulldogs also started early Monday — 6:30 a.m. to be exact. They were in the gym twice a day each day this week. Their coach has been pleased with their work ethic.
“The girls had a lot of energy today,” Brown said. “They are very outgoing and I’m seeing a lot of great things from our upperclassmen. They worked harder today than I’ve seen them work in a long time and it’s good to bring that to the court this time of the year.”
The volleyball squad has decreased in numbers this year, but Brown is happy with those participating. Plus, the girls out this year will receive more playing time.
“We are low on numbers compared to what we usually have had in the past,” she said. “But we have 25 good volleyball players, which is nice to see. A lot of girls are going to see a lot more of the court this year.”
BHS will begin its season with a home quad Aug. 31.
First-year coach Mark Joslyn is working his players early in the season. He had them out at 8 a.m. Monday and again at 7 p.m. He has been pleased with the players’ effort this week.
“They’ve been hustling every practice,” Joslyn said. “Their work ethic is good. They are working hard.”
Joslyn was another BHS coach who was thrilled about the cooler temperatures Monday. He was also happy to be practicing on the new field. It’s in the same location as previous years, but it was reconstructed after the new track was built around it. During the summer, the Bulldogs were practicing at the Baldwin City Recreation Commission fields at the corner of Third and Orange streets.
“It’s nice to be out here on the new field,” Joslyn said. “They constructed this last year and it’s nice. It’s our own place and it’s nice to be there compared to where we were at this summer.”
There are 32 Bulldogs out for the soccer team this fall. Joslyn has eight days to prepare his team for its first game.
“We don’t have a lot of time, but that’s OK,” Joslyn said. “The first game is always a little different. They’ve been practicing a lot, so they’re ready to do something. Tonganoxie is dealing with the same issues as far as practice time.”
The Bulldogs host Tonganoxie on Aug. 27.
BHS girls’ tennis
Last, but certainly not least, is Hoffman’s girls’ tennis squad. It’s a team that didn’t graduate any varsity players from a year ago.
“We didn’t lose anybody off of what was varsity last year,” Hoffman said. “Whether that will stay the same, I don’t know. We’ll see who steps up to play.”
The girls’ tennis squad also has high numbers out this fall. There are 23 participants out for tennis. Hoffman predicted a larger number this fall.
“We’ve got a good number of girls out this year,” Hoffman said. “We don’t have as many freshmen as I would like, but I’m not sure what the reason. We didn’t have any seniors last year, so I knew we’d be larger this year. We have large upperclasses, with six seniors and eight juniors.”
Leading the returning players is senior Kara Protasio. She was the lone state qualifier a year ago. The Bulldogs begin their season on Sept. 1 (junior varsity) and Sept. 2 (varsity).
“I wish there was about a week more, because it takes a little bit to get back into the swing of things, especially with consistency and serving,” Hoffman said. “I can never have too much time.”