PEMBROKE — To close the second practice of the young preseason for the UNCP football team, coach Shane Richardson gave his team a quote that could be taken as both an inspirational quote and as a challenge for his team.
On the practice field that sits in the shadows of Grace P. Johnson Stadium, Richardson gave his team, that was battered from a two-hour practice in the heat, leaving many cramping and suffering from heat exhaustion, the quote: “Better to suffer for one day than an entire season.”
“I think it’s something they’ve got to know,” Richardson said. “Everyday is going to bring challenges and they’ve got to be able to fight through them, they’ve all got to know that it’s all part of the bigger plan of us being ready for a great season ahead of us and this is all just part of the training process.”
Richardson hopes that the work and struggles to get prepared for the season will prevent the suffering that came at the close of last year as the Braves went from 4-1 with a win over No. 17 Tuskegee to closing the season with a 6-4 record.
With a bulk of returners on both sides of the ball, a new season brings new excitement for the Braves.
“I think we’ve got a team that is very excited of what we can do this year. They have very high expectations,” Richardson said.
There are returners from last season that have lofty goals for their teams that have come into practice leading their team by being physically prepared, while others have had a rough start to the preseason coming in out of shape. The consequences of that could be harsh for the players that are unprepared.
“There’s a big part of them that have really done what they need to do and there’s another part of the team that I’ve had to challenge,” Richardson said. “We can see that right now and that’s hurting some guys because it’s hot and guys are starting to cramp up and they’re going to lose reps and lose their spot and it’s next man up ready to go.”
With more than three weeks left until the first kickoff at Winston-Salem State on Sept. 3, Richardson knows there will be days the excitement will wear off with the repetition and grueling schedule of practices, workouts and sessions in the weight room. Through it all, he hopes to see his team’s mental toughness come along with its physical conditioning.
“I think certain days it gets at them a little bit knowing that you’ve got to come out in the heat every day, you’ve got to put on 25 pounds of equipment every day, we’ve got to go to weights, we’ve got to go to long meetings, we’ve got to be here until at night and be here in the morning,” Richardson said. “It’s a physically grinding schedule and routine. That can certainly deter anyone. They’ve got to be able to fight those things and stay discipline and know that it’s going to pay off for them in the long run.”
While each player individually is preparing themselves for the season, the coaching staff is working on making sure the team is gelled together with a slew of new faces on the roster joining the squad that has spent the summer apart.
“I think one of the most important things when a team reports after being away all summer, leaving from spring and having a whole new group of guys come in, you’ve got to build the camaraderie, the unity and the chemistry back together again,” Richardson said. “We’re trying to do a lot of communication and have guys take the lead on stuff so that we can become a team and that’s the foundation that will allow us to do a lot of really good things.”
Jonathan Bym can be reached at 910-816-1977. Follow him on Twitter @Jonathan_Bym.