Reshaping a program, starting with the body

Connor Antich sprints to the baseline during a summer conditioning session with other South Whidbey Falcon football players. Since June, the four-days-a-week workouts have averaged 20 boys.  - Ben Watanabe / The Record
Connor Antich sprints to the baseline during a summer conditioning session with other South Whidbey Falcon football players. Since June, the four-days-a-week workouts have averaged 20 boys.
— image credit: Ben Watanabe / The Record

Sprinting from sideline to sideline, about 20 Falcon football players looked gassed after a solid hour of running lines on Monday.

Their times were all under the limit, 60 seconds, and had assistant coach Alex Heilig smiling and passing out praise. During a quick post-workout huddle, he told the team that when they started, they all struggled with the runs. Now, each may feel winded and tired, but everyone was able to run several lines and all come in under a minute.

Since spring football ended in June, a dedicated group of South Whidbey High School athletes have worked out four days a week, every week.

It’s part of the culture change and new expectation head coach Chris Tormey is setting in his first year leading the Falcons after a long career coaching Division I college programs, including an assistant at the University of Washington.

“All of this is getting us ahead and on par with championship programs,” Heilig said after an hourlong conditioning session Monday.

South Whidbey is joining the ranks of many of its Cascade Conference and class 1A counterparts in organizing year-round workouts and training without making it mandatory — that’s prohibited by the Washington Interscholastic Activities Association.

Heilig, who joined Tormey after two seasons coaching the Coupeville Wolves, told the two dozen boys in the blistering morning sun that he bragged wherever he went that the Falcons had committed to working out, getting in shape and staying in shape, pushing themselves physically and dedicating time to learn plays during the summer.

“We’ve seen huge gains,” he said.

During the conditioning session Monday, not one football was on Waterman’s Field. Instead, only a rectangle of lines on a quarter of the field to mark the areas the players were required to run to, bend down to touch, run back to the baseline, then out to the next. All of these had to be done under 60 seconds, and all of them were.

It left many of the teenagers, from the incoming ninth graders to the savvy seniors, winded and thirsty.

Tormey and Heilig hope that by the first game, a crucial match against Coupeville, South Whidbey’s players will be near peak shape. More than that, they have been sending them plays to study and memorize. Heilig, a teacher, referred to it as homework.

“That’s what’s going to make the difference when we’re tired,” he said.

Heilig, who was leading the non-mandatory workout while Tormey was out of town, said a handful of players have stood out during the summer sessions. He noted Charlie Patterson, Maverick Christensen and Deven Damerau, all upperclassmen, for showing leadership and commitment during the offseason. A pair of young players also stood out to Heilig, but he wanted to wait and see how it played out once the season officially starts Aug. 20.



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