[This Commentary originally appeared in the August 23, 1990 issue of The Mendon-Honeoye Falls-Lima Sentinel.]
The early mornings of late August forebode the coming end of summer. A slight chill remains above the heavy wet grass until the sun gets high enough to melt the dew. Take a deep breath and you will notice the smell of the season has changed. The dry dustiness has been replaced by a soft gentle odor reminiscent of spring.
Late August mornings encourage us to sleep late. The blankets covering you take on a more comfortable demeanor when you wake up to a cool daybreak. The pleasant warmth of your bed intoxicates you with tranquil satisfaction. Your eyes close lazily while the clock radio blares the rush hour traffic report.
But the responsibility of an honest job tugs at your soul. You reluctantly give up the immediate solace of your berth, knowing the long term importance of a steady pay check. You launch out from under your covers and go through your daily prep. Soon you find yourself in your car driving to work. Your mind already fills with the anticipation of the day’s list of things to do.
For a brief moment, you have experienced one of the most wonderful times of the year. Our environmentally controlled office bound positions, however, cause us to miss the fantastic transition of these beautiful summer days.
Late August means only one thing to every red-blooded American male – double sessions. Each year, right about now, thousands of high school football coaches commit themselves to turning a rag tag band of unkempt teenage boys into a machine-like team of dedicated men. It all begins with double sessions. (Actually, it all begins with the mandatory physical on the school’s nurse’s office, but we try to forget about those kinds of things.)
Double sessions – whether for boy or girl athletes playing football, soccer or field hockey – produce the first important reason not to sleep until noon on a late August day. In fact, double sessions demand you get out of bed much earlier than you prefer (though not as early as your parents who have to go to work).
You generally enter the locker room with sleep still in your eyes. Only through years of physical education classes can you now mindlessly change into your gym shorts. You yearn for just a few more hours of sleep. You also yearn for shoulder pads, for, as the coach says, “Anybody can be an All-American in gym shorts.”
With the tweet of a distant whistle, the coach summons you to the practice field. You run out of the warmth in the boys’ locker room with a group of equally semi-conscious peers. The cold late August morning air slaps your exposed skin. The coaches, at first small specks on a far away field, loom larger, their voices bellowing. “C’mon girls! Rise’n’shine! Get the lead out!”
You silently curse the decision you made to try out for the team. Of course, things will only get worse.
The warm-up exercises will further insult your senses as you roll around in the soaking wet grass. Remember, double sessions start before the sun has had a chance to dry the ground. Finally, with your body loose, you can begin the morning session.
At first, the practice actually relieves you. Now that you’re awake, you don’t mind the workout. In fact, you probably say to yourself, “Gee, I should wake up this early every morning.” Running around and sweating makes the cool air rather refreshing.
All in all, the morning session invigorates you physically, emotionally and philosophically. By the end of the session, you can sense the tautness of your finely toned muscles (even if they’re not finely toned). The adrenaline stimulates something inside your brain that causes immense satisfaction. Lastly, you have personally witnessed the dawn of a new day. The sky has transformed from a stark cold blue to a more temperate light blue.
Of course, you feel you could probably so without the wind sprints at the end of the session. Also, the final two laps around the practice field feel a bit redundant. Still, you have enough energy left to sprint a few acres to the locker room just to make sure you’re not the last one in.
You go home for lunch. The young day only emphasizes how much you’ve accomplished already. You even have time for a nap, but you end up only resting inside the cool house.
Everything sounds good so far. Well, the problem with double sessions has to do with the first word – double. You see, there are two sessions. The first one teases you into believing you’ll survive the second one. So it goes.
As the time approaches to return to the practice fields, you prepare a cold concoction. You won’t drink it right now. You’ll save this for the end of the second session. (My brother and I used to mix a small amount of lemonade with a large amount of ice in quart size Tupperware containers. We’d store these in our lockers at the beginning of the afternoon session. By the end of the session, the ice would have melted, leaving a tasty cold thirst quencher.)
By the end of the afternoon, the hot sun has positioned itself to remind you summer still has a way to go. When the distant whistle blows, you trudge out of the cool locker room with your comrades as if prisoners on death row. You start sweating even before you begin working out. You wonder how long you will last.
The summer heat affects the coaches, too. They act particularly volatile, picking at every little mistake you make. You get angry, which isn’t a very useful emotion in 90 degree weather. Anger leads to sloppiness, which in turn leads to yelling coaches and more punishing laps.
At the end of the day, you masochistically look forward to the wind sprints (for they signal the end of the afternoon session). The final two laps feel like a forced march. Yet, you make every effort not to be the first one in the locker room. After all, you don’t want the coach to think you don’t enjoy the sport.
[What is this and why is here? See Interested in Discovering My Time Machine? for more details.]