Our Shore Sports Network is gearing up for the high school football season with our first previews now appearing on shoresportsnetwork.com

Toms River East receivers prepare for the season (Kevin Williams, Townsquare Media NJ)

I’ve been visiting some practices this week to talk with coaches and players as they prepare for their season openers which for just about all the Shore Conference teams will be the weekend of September 11th-12th.  However four Ocean County schools have opted to open their seasons a week earlier with Central traveling to Southern and Pinelands hosting Donovan Catholic on September 4th, just before Labor Day weekend.

While most schools have summer workouts and conditioning programs official practices began last week and many will throw in some two-a-days to ramp up efforts and be ready for opening day.  It’s not easy and not always fun to be on the field in full equipment on a hot and humid summer day when your friends are on the beach and many coaches have told me it’s harder than ever to get players to make the commitment. 

Program numbers are shrinking throughout the shore which presents many challenges to coaching staffs. Depth is always a concern and teams want the ability to use different players on offense and defense. There will always be some players who go both ways but coaches would like to do that because of talent and not necessity. 

The Toms River East football team practices for the upcoming season (Kevin Williams, Townsquare Media NJ)

The more players you can use the better for all phases of your program but it seems for the most part the days of 70 or 80 players on your varsity squad are the exception and the norm is closer to 50 and for some less than that.

Things today are a far cry from when I was in high school when you couldn’t even begin official practice until September 1st as we did not start the season until later in the month.  We’d have some summer workouts run by team captains and of course everyone knew there was some schools that were cheating and starting earlier.  Now there is hardly any down time and at lot is asked of teenagers who also want to enjoy their summer or in many cases have to work and make money.

It’s not just the players who have to make sacrifices but the coaches as well who can be found on fields and in weigh rooms pretty much 12 months a year.  Football like most sports no longer has an off-season which is why there is less participation and I don’t see that trend changing.