High school sports teams had usually wrapped up tryouts and finalized team rosters well in advance of the first day of classes. That all changed this year, but as Saturday came and passed, local high school athletes statewide could finally breathe a sigh of relief.
Saturday marked the first day of official practice for fall sports, with the exception of football, as allowed by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, the state's governing body for prep sports. Local coaches and athletes took advantage, filling gyms and fields on the initial day practice.
"It's a great day," said Reed girls soccer coach Jason Saville after watching his team's Saturday morning practice and prior to its evening workout. "The girls are excited to finally make it count. I'm really happy with the girls and the way they've been approaching the season. That's half the battle, early on, making sure they're engaged. And all signs point to they are."
Nevada's high school football players were allowed to start a four-day conditioning period on Aug. 10 and then their official first day of practice was Aug. 15. The rest of Nevada's fall prep sports -- volleyball, soccer, tennis, cross country and girls golf -- could all kick off official practice Saturday.
"The first day of practice is always a joy on a day like today," Sparks boys soccer coach Frank Avilla said. "It may be a little rougher on the kids, but practice has always started about this time. It's good to see the freshmen as well as the returners. We're fortunate with where we are ... It looks like we're re-tooling. I anticipate another good season."
Sparks boys soccer was the Division 1-A, state runner-up last fall.
Many prep sports programs see a surplus of potential athletes turn out for fall practice. That leaves the first few days of practice doubling as tryouts and often leaving Tuesday or Wednesday as Cut Day.
"We had 55 girls come out today," Reed volleyball coach Kristen Flagtvedt said Saturday afternoon. "I'd say that's a little bit more than in past years. It's going to make a difference. I think the earlier start to school is the reason for the higher turnout. For a lot of girls who move before the start of high school, they don't hear about anything until they're in school. I think we got a few of those girls who might've missed out if school had started after practice began.
"The high numbers are definitely giving us more options as coaches. I feel like my staff has a lot of tough choices in the coming days, but I get really excited about tryouts. That means the season is starting and we can get focused on the start of the season."
Avilla said his Railroaders program had 34 student-athletes competing on the practice field Saturday morning and he expects another 5-to-10 to get their clearance paperwork approved in the following days.
"I think we had a lot more enthusiasm for the first day," Avilla said. "Our middle school and JV programs really are working and the kids are responding down there. There seems to be a lot more young talent. Our Sparks kids know what to expect. I've been here 11 years now. We have a good program and the kids are excited to come out."
At Spanish Springs, after leading optional summer workouts for nearly two months, first-year boys tennis coach Brian Thompson was happy to start mandatory practices Saturday.
"We're just weeks away from the season-opening match," Thompson said. "I'm chomping at the bit and I know the kids are too. There was an increased intensity in practice today. That was fun to see. There was a lot of energy and a lot of excitement from a lot of kids."
Thompson took over the program in early June and used the last two months to try and bulk up a roster.
"We've got 21 boys trying out for tennis. Considering we only have only four returners, I'm excited about that number," said Thompson, who is a rookie tennis coach but had served on the Cougars' baseball staff for years. "We got about eight current baseball kids out. We were able to get some incoming freshman out and then some of our returning kids recruited a couple of their buddies as well."
Some local squads will participate in season-opening tournaments, specifically soccer and volleyball teams, on Aug. 30-31. Many other teams open their fall campaigns. Sept. 3.