TAMPA — At schools like Berkeley Prep, football is almost a 12-month commitment.
The wins that come during the fall are the result of work done during the spring and summer. Sure, the players aren’t wearing the pads during the July heat, but they are getting their work done in the gym, and the coaches are also getting their work in.
Dominick Ciao coaches at Berkeley Prep and he says that coaching prep football is a year-round thing.
“For the players, working out all year isn’t mandatory, but we kind of expect it,” Ciao said. “The workouts are packed every day during the summer. These guys want to win.”
In high school, football is year-round. Practice starts under the blazing sun in early August and the games start toward the end of the month with a scrimmage followed by 10 regular season games. After that, some of the players move on to other sports, but most of the returning players hit the gym until April when spring football starts. That means more weeks of sweating under the Florida sun waiting for the spring jamboree in the middle of May.
After that, it’s back to the weight room all summer until August, when the cycle starts all over again.
It isn’t necessarily Army boot camp. Ciao said that, at Berkeley, family comes first.
“We have players who go on vacation,” Ciao said. “They have things to do besides playing football and it’s all about family. We respect that, but they need to get their work in by the time practice starts in August.”
The workouts are not mandatory, but are strongly suggested as being a good idea. The Bucs do their workouts on the Berkeley campus. There are no repercussions for players who don’t show up every day and Ciao emphasized that summer is family time.
“We can’t take the summer away from them,” Ciao said. “They have commitments and those are more important than anything.”
At Berkeley, it’s also a year-round thing for the assistant coaches. Every year, high school teams have to deal with graduation and new freshmen. The Bucs went 5-4 last season (one game was rained out), and were hit by graduation losses like everyone else, so there’s not a lot of time for rest.
“We are excited,” Ciao said. “But there is a lot of work to do. We have a great group of assistant coaches, but we have to learn the new players and always put in a new system to adapt to the players.”
One of the main things, Ciao said, is to mesh the new guys with the veterans on the team.
“We need to make sure that the new guys feel like they are part of the team,” Ciao said. “We always have to make sure the kids are staying out of trouble, and that isn’t usually a problem at Berkeley, but we are just as busy putting together the next season as we are during the season. The players are gaining weight, working on strength, and we are putting together a team.”
But he put it in perspective.
“It’s all about family,” he said. “They work out during the summer for two hours a day, but, still, family always has to come first.’’