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Preseason Can Be Time for Fun


With less hair on their heads than they have on their faces, a group of football players are cheering loudly for their teammates on stage.

One of the players, a big kid with a slight paunch, pulls his arms in tight, close to his shoulders, and displays his biceps. He is in the classic bodybuilder pose.

With his shaved head and traces of baby fat, he hardly looks the bodybuilder type, but the audience appreciates the tongue-and-cheek effort.

With football teams having practiced long hours in the hot sun in preparation for tonight's Southern Section season openers, it was not unusual to see players at several area schools wearing women's clothing, doing stand-up comedy, or competing in bodybuilding contests.

Schools such as Serra, Redlands and Santa Ana Mater Dei think that players who work hard deserve more than a good tan for their hard work in the preseason. They need a diversion.

"It's good to break the tension," Serra Coach Kevin Crawley said. "You want them to be prepared mentally and physically, but they're 16 and 17 years old. If they aren't having fun, there's something wrong."

To help break the monotony as well as ease the traveling to and from school, Loyola coaches and players moved in to the gymnasium for a week.

During Camp Week, players lined the gym with mattresses from home. Towels and laundry hung from the bleachers, and players studied, talked and played practical jokes on each other.

Other schools patterned their preseason after professional rookie camps. New players are made to sing songs or perform skits.

Few awards are offered to the winners, but the losers might be forced to repeat a substandard performance the next year, or clean up the gym if they don't entertain.

Players at Serra performed a skit that guaranteed them crowd approval.

"It was the last act of the night," Crawley said. "Three kids went up on stage and one of them asked the two others where they were going. They yelled 'I'm going to Disneyland.' With that they dumped ice water on me."

At Bishop Amat, Coach Mark Paredes saw some creative productions.

"One of our coaches had his truck stolen a few weeks ago," Paredes said. "We had a group of players do a skit where they played the guys who stole it. Another player acted the part of a Mafia-type who wanted to buy it. They did it to tease the coach and it was funny and in good taste."

Coaches have learned to use the leisure time away from the playing field to unify and motivate their teams.

"It's a good way to build camaraderie," Paredes said. "You want an atmosphere of loyalty on the team."

Rollinson says this kind of thing puts everyone in the frame of mind to win.

"I eat this stuff up," Rollinson said. "If you're not ready to play after that you must have been born under a rock."

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