Rick Scott, the football coach at Buena High, refers to it as a ritual--like spring cleaning. Mike Tsoutsouvas of Santa Paula calls it "Heath Week." Ventura's Harvey Kochel uses its generic name: "Two-a-days."
But no matter which term is currently in vogue, the first week of football season has been less affectionately known by players as "Hell Week."
"It's not so bad," Oxnard quarterback Johnel Turner said. "Unless, you're out of shape. Then I feel sorry for you."
Starting Monday, football players will don helmets and pads for the first time this summer and begin three days of conditioning. Body contact is not permitted until Thursday.
For Division I college prospects like Turner, it is an exciting time of the year. Football is his ticket out of Oxnard. For others, it means a premature end to summer vacation.
Traditionally, football coaches use the first week of practice to identify the dedicated athletes. Only the fittest survive.
They schedule two practices a day. They run seemingly endless sets of football and agility drills in which players smash into tackling dummies, blocking sleds and pads. A break in the action brings only a set of wind sprints.
But some area coaches said they have eased their stance toward practice and expect less from their players during the first week. Kochel said he has eliminated running before and after practice.
"We don't run sprints because most players get leg-tired during practice," Kochel said. "I've changed my philosophy and we've had fewer pulled hamstring and pulled groin injuries."
Tsoutsouvas has reduced the number of contact drills during the first week and treats it more like an instructional camp. Santa Paula players will spend more time listening to chalk talks and walking through the offense and defense than pounding each other into the turf.
"We call it health week. Players roll into shape," Tsoutsouvas said. "We spend more time teaching and less time hitting. If they're going to get beat up, let it be in a game. We can't afford to lose any players because we don't get that many to begin with."
Scott is more of a traditionalist. He runs the standard football drills, but with a sense of humor. He punctuates his on-field pep talks with one-liners and hopes his humor helps players laugh away their pains.
But his training camp is still a survival test.
"I don't like that expression 'Hell Week,' " Scott said. "Kids don't want to give up going to the beach for two weeks to go through hell. That would be stupid.
"Football is the greatest game in the world. A player should go through the first week of practice and feel like he's accomplished something. It's like a tribesman going out to kill a beast to prove he's a man.
"It's like a relationship with a woman. Only football won't break your heart. It hasn't broken mine."
Adding laughs to staff: Ventura High baseball Coach Dan Smith will have a new audience for his homespun brand of humor this fall.
Smith, along with two former Ventura High football players, will be new assistants for the football team this year.
Smith, who is becoming a somewhat of a legend as a punster and practical joker, will coach the offensive backs.
Charles Bonsignore will instruct the defensive ends and Brett Taylor will work with the wide receivers. Both graduated in 1984.
Artie Perez, who teaches at Rio Mesa, is the only returning assistant and will be in charge of the defensive line.
"This will be the first in a long time that Dan Smith will be helping out with the team," Kochel said. "I appreciate his help and I'm looking forward to working with him."
Young travelers: An AYSO soccer team comprising 13- and 14-year-old girls from Ventura County returned last week from a 19-day trip to Europe.
The 16-player team became the first Americans to compete in the Pondus Cup in Alborg, Denmark, and took home a bronze medal. They also played in Trans-Atlantic Challenge, a one-day tournament at the University of Keele in Newcastle, England, and in an exhibition match against a youth team from London.
It took a year to plan and more than $30,000 in various fund raisers and business sponsorships to make the trip possible.
"Soccer was the only vehicle for these girls to enjoy an experience like this," team manager Cindy Miller said. "More important than the bronze medal was what else the girls brought home with them. Denmark has an entirely different life style and culture. It was the greatest experience in my life and I'm sure many of the girls feel the same way. It can never be duplicated."
The team was coached by Dick Allen and his assistant Mike Ishihara. Sabrina Clemore was the team coordinator.
The squad consisted of Kim Allen, Brandy Clemore, Monique Culpepper, Toni Depasquale, Marie Drew, Jenelle Hertz, Kelly Ishihara, Erin Mastri, Holly Matthews, Cecilia Meyer, Amanda Miller, Diana Misemer, Chelsea Ramsey, Bree Urbano, Janelle Wiskow and Stacy Woodson.