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NHS players get up early for first day of summer workouts

Natchez High School football players run laps around the school track early Monday morning for the first day of summer workouts. Head coach Lance Reed said the coaches are looking to build strength and speed during the summer. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)
Natchez High School football players run laps around the school track early Monday morning for the first day of summer workouts. Head coach Lance Reed said the coaches are looking to build strength and speed during the summer. (Ben Hillyer \ The Natchez Democrat)

NATCHEZ — Lee Jackson took it upon himself to set the tone on the first day of summer workouts at Natchez High School.

After an early morning of lifting and agility drills that began at 6 a.m., approximately 60 Bulldog players closed things out with tackling drills. One player would hold the pad while another would charge in and hit.

In the early duration of the drills, the hits did little more than drive the players holding the pads more than a few steps back. Then, Jackson delivered a hit that sent holder Cedarius Bailey to the floor.

“I just had to pump my team up,” Jackson said afterward. “They see me doing something good, and they’ll want to do it.”

From then on, the hits were much more intense. And Jackson said he was happy to see his teammates respond to his hit.

“It feels great,” he said. “A leader has to lead.”

Players alternated between weight lifting in the Steckler Multipurpose Building and running drills on the NHS track Monday morning, and Bulldogs head coach Lance Reed said having 60 players was a positive.

“We had pretty good participation,” Reed said. “We have a few missing, but that’s normal, and it’s our job to hunt them down and get them here with the rest of the group.”

The workouts are designed to make players both faster and either leaner or bulkier, depending on their body type.

“We want to build their core and get rid of a little fat if that’s what the players need,” Reed said. “If they’re smaller, we want them to gain the proper muscle mass.

“We want to improve their overall strength, flexibility and speed. We not only want to get these guys stronger and faster but get them through the season injury-free.”

Strong safety Avery Jones had a head start of sorts on lifting, having gone through a season of powerlifting this past spring.

“It helps a lot in the weight room when we’re doing lifts, but not as much when we’re on the track,” he said.

Though the early mornings aren’t what he’s used to, Jones said he sees the importance of what they will be doing during the summer.

“My alarm went off, and I didn’t want to get up, but I knew how much it’d help, so I decided to come out,” Jones said. “Running helps you get faster, and weights help you get stronger. Working out in the morning helps out with long games in the fourth quarter.”

Reed said the durability built up by players during summer workouts can go a long way in preventing serious injuries in the fall.

“Some accidents are inevitable, but training and conditioning can lessen terrible injuries,” he said. “If they didn’t have the proper buildup, they could have worse injuries.”

Though much of their summer will focus on conditioning, Reed said some offensive and defensive drills would be utilized as well.

“The 7-on-7s will help us get the passing game to where we want it to be, and we do a lot of drills that are position-related, where they learn the positions in drills,” Reed said.

Reed also said developing a strong mindset was an integral part of summer conditioning.

“It’s important for the kids to gain mental toughness, and we design our drills to teach them that,” Reed said.

And part of developing mental toughness is making sure they put in the time during the summer, Jackson said.

“We feel like we need to step up and be a better team,” Jackson said. “To do that, we have to come here at 6 a.m. and grind every day.”

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