La Marque head football coach Mike Jackson has been preaching about the grind before his current crop of players were born and long before it became a popular phrase in modern vernacular.
In recent years, terms like “on the grind” or “embracing the grind” have come to mean pushing one’s limits to achieve a great goal.
That is exactly what some local high school teams began to experience as the first football practices began Aug. 4.
“I don’t want to be outworked, and I don’t want my team to be outworked,” Jackson said. “There is no substitute in this game for discipline and hard work.”
The varsity group has solid numbers at 35 to 40, but the sophomores and freshmen participants have been lower than in recent years, Jackson said.
Although the numbers are down, Jackson said the first practices were one of the best opening weeks in his four years at La Marque.
Given La Marque’s numbers and high-octane playing style, practice is especially challenging for the players involved.
“We play at a very fast pace, so we’re making them practice at a very fast pace, and it’s hot,” Jackson said. “We make our kids rep both ways because we’re a smaller school now. They don’t just practice one way. They work offense, and then they go and work defense.”
The Friendswood Mustangs find themselves on the opposite end of the spectrum in the numbers game.
As Friendswood moves up to class 6A, the team finds itself with one of the largest groups head coach Robert Koopmann has seen in 20-plus years with the program.
Friendswood, which just a few years ago shared a district with La Marque, had 108 freshmen and 235 total players report for the first week of practice, Koopmann said.
“It’s one of those good problems to have, finding helmets for everybody and equipment and all those things,” Koopmann said. “At 235, we’re way north of where we’ve been in forever.”
Koopmann credited the implementation of a C team on the junior high level for the growth in interest in the program, which allowed more players to stay involved in football before trying out for the high school team.
Even with the large numbers, the players and coaching staff have worked together very well and have had an excellent understanding of the playbook in the first week of practices, Koopmann said.
“It amazes me how focused our kids are, and it amazes me how well we’re coaching them and how the two are working together,” Koopmann said. “It’s just fun to watch.”
Texas City, Santa Fe and Bay Area Christian were among the county schools that began practicing Aug. 4.
Schools that held spring practices, which include Ball High School, Clear Creek, Clear Falls and Clear Springs, begin practicing today.
For information about practice schedules, contact respective schools’ athletic departments.