Norwich football pushes hard in off-season training

Though the fall sports season is far off, that has not stopped the Norwich University football team from preparing for next year. According to sophomore Jalen Belle-Walker, spring serves as an important time of preparation for the entire team.

The team is participating in a series of early morning spring practices over the remainder of the year. Along with team lifts and spring practices, preparation is in full effect for the fall season.
Norwich University football finished the season last fall with an overall record of 7-4 and the Cadets also appeared in their third straight postseason game, where they fell to Salve Regina University in the Eastern College Athletic Conference Northeast Bowl game. After a winning season, “spring practices are the building blocks that prepare us for the upcoming fall season,” said linebacker Belle-Walker, 19, a sophomore civil engineering major from Lithonia, Ga.
When people think of spring, they might not anticipate the fact that football is practiced during the season. “The spring is our off-season, it’s a period where we work around the clock to become better players” said defensive end Jepthe Soulouque, 20, a sophomore athletic training major from Everett, Mass.
During spring practices players are on a mission to improve day by day.
“We do a lot of things during practices to better ourselves both physically and mentally,” said defensive back Michael O’Neill, 20, a sophomore communications major from Winthrop, Mass.
To improve individual abilities, players perform “everything from drills to team-based scenarios such as 7 on 7,” O’Neill said. To improve their stamina for the fall season players also condition themselves by running throughout practices. “Conditioning is a huge part to the game of football, it can help towards the end of each game when you are bound to be tired,” he said.
The practices also provide an environment that allows players to compete with one other. “Competition is a big part of the practices because it allows us to push each other to our limits,” Soulouque said. “No one ever wants to be outdone by someone else and that’s what makes us compete so much.”
Spring practices, also referred to as spring ball by many players “gives the team a head start going into the summer,” said running back Quincy Williams, 19, a freshman physical education major from Montreal, Quebec. “We learn certain things during spring ball that will be translated onto the field during the actual season, so a head start definitely helps the team to get accommodated with certain aspects of the game.”
A head start can be most important for players who are moving to different positions. “The transition from one position to another can be a rough one,” said defensive back Tyler Oppelt, 19, a mechanical engineering major from Latham, N.Y. Oppelt made the transition himself over the course of the season when he moved from wide receiver to defensive back.
“Even though the transition may be a rough one, spring practices are essential to a player moving to a new position.”
Spring practices begin at 5:30 a.m. ,making it a mental curve for some players. “The fact that it’s so early in the morning makes me mentally stronger,” Belle- Walker said. In many people’s minds, “waking up and running on a football field is the last they want to do, but people also forget that it’s an opportunity to improve yourself as a player.”
Though the thought of practicing so hard so early may seem a daunting idea for non-athletes, football team members think going to the extreme is a impetus to become better. “It can be in some ways unique to think that when somebody is in bed sleeping, you are becoming better as a player, not just physically but mentally,” Williams said.

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