ON SPORTS: Summer conditioning part of Refugio's success
REFUGIO - Seven months have passed since Refugio celebrated its third football state championship at Cowboys Stadium in Arlington.
But even in the heat of July, the feeling lingers for the large group of athletes who gather at the high school field house for summer conditioning drills.
"We want to win a state championship," said senior Cameron Sternadel. "It's expected every year. If you don't come do this, you're not going to win, which was proven last year. We had a lot of people coming. Almost all the starters (came) and we won the state championship."
Sternadel has not missed a conditioning drill since he began high school and he has a lot of company on Mondays, Wednesdays and Thursdays.
The Bobcats average attendance is between 90 and 100 a session.
"There's something special about coming out and working out with a group of kids and it not being mandatory," said Refugio athletic director and head football coach Jason Herring. "When the kids buy in and it means something and they starting holding each other accountable because the coach can't reward them or punish them. It's just got to be intrinsic."
The University Interscholastic League allows schools to hold six weeks of non-sport specific conditioning drills during the summer for students entering seventh through 12th grades.
The sessions may be held four days a week for no longer than two hours a session.
Refugio holds drills three times a week and each session lasts an hour. The sessions are held in the evening because many of the athletes have jobs.
"I think it's real important," Herring said. "I think it's a huge difference in us being successful, but I also think kids need a little time to be kids. I think you can overdo it."
Refugio athletes lift weights and run on Monday and Thursday and do agility drills on Wednesday.
"Our kids do a great job in the weight room all year long," Herring said. "When May 25 comes, our kids are strong and in as good of shape as they're ever going to be. All we're looking for now, we would like to get a little bit stronger, but it's more of maintenance."
The Bobcats learned last season the benefits gained during summer conditioning drills go beyond strength and speed.
"Mainly we get to be a better team," said senior Jack Gumm. "We get the chemistry before the season comes so we don't get like a deer in the headlights when the season comes. We're already familiar with each other."
Refugio is ranked No. 1 in Class 2A, Division II by Texas Football magazine and Herring expects most other polls to do the same.
He knows the more the Bobcats accomplish this summer will benefit them when two-a-days start in August.
"When a group of kids is doing something they know many kids aren't and it's 100 percent of your team, it almost becomes a buy in," Herring said. "The kids start motivating and pushing each other to make sure they do their part.
"Our kids see it as a way to make us better," he added. "They relate it to football so they want to be a part of it."
Mike Forman is a sports writer for the Victoria Advocate. Contact him at 361-580-6588 or firstname.lastname@example.org, or comment on this column at www.VictoriaAdvocate.com.