by Rob Tetro
Ridge Barden is never far from the minds of his teammates.
Phoenix Varsity Football Coach Jeff Charles and his players recently began practice for the first season full season of football since Barden died tragically last October.
But when there is darkness, there is light and Phoenix players have found light in Barden’s legacy.
The 2012 season, which is dedicated to Barden, will be influenced by Barden’s legacy on a daily basis, according to the coach.
Charles said Barden’s presence serves as motivation for everyone on the team. For example, there have been moments in practice when the players begin to wear down and one of the players yelled out in encouragement “What would Ridge do?”
Charles even mentioned a recent moment during a practice as rain began to fall. One of Barden’s teammates yelled out, “It was raining the day Ridge died. It’s raining for us to know that he is with us!”
This season, Charles welcomed the addition of three new coaches who bring an a lot of experience to the table.
Joining Charles staff is former Westhill coach Pat Burns, former Nottingham coach Paul Sealy and former Nottingham coach Jeff Paul.
This season, Phoenix will be trying to replace a handful of Seniors from last season’s team. As Phoenix begins play in Class C-West this season, they do so with 36 players on the roster. This is the largest roster the Firebirds have had to date.
The Firebirds’ conditioning program began during the spring. Though some players were taking part in spring sports, other football players were in the weight room working on their agility and running.
Throughout the summer, the players took part in cross-fit training. Three days a week for 75 minutes each day, players followed a lifting and running regiment.
The Firebirds also took part in 7-on-7 scrimmages against players from Solvay and Fulton. With practices underway, the team’s conditioning seems to be where coaches want it to be.
Though practice consists of an abundance of fundamental drills, the team still does conditioning drills three times a day. The players understand that they need to be committed to conditioning in order to be in the shape that they need to be in for a 9 game season, the coach said.
Charles has yet to name any team captains. He suggested that traits of a team captain consist of full time dedication and leadership in both the weight room and the classroom.
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