The Spanish Springs boys basketball team was one of the local squads that started over the weekend.
“It feels great,” Cougars coach Kyle Penney said. “I have the opportunity to work with some great kids and families and I look forward to every opportunity I get to be around these kids, freshmen through seniors.”
Forty seven boys tried out at the Cougars’ first day of in-season workouts, a handful of which participated in offseason workouts.
Common at all schools, offseason participation was limited by the number of athletes who participate in fall sports.
Penney said the first day “was great” and the players “were working hard, listening and really just competing their tails off.
“We have to get everyone on the same page and get kids familiar with our expectations as well as begin to develop toughness,” Penney said. “From a varsity standpoint, we have to get kids to buy in and understand how hard they are going to have to work all the time in all phases of the game.”
The Cougs’ rival, Reed, also stepped back onto the hardwood for the first time this season, Saturday.
“You always have that date on that calendar and it seems like it’s never going to get here. Then all of a sudden, it is here,” Reed boys basketball coach Dustin Hall said. “The kids are excited. The coaches are excited. We’re ready to start working.” Sixty players came out for the first day of practice but for yet another year, many players are still wearing shoulder pads as the Raiders’ football squad plays in the North title game Friday. The varsity squad started its season with two sessions Saturday.
“I thought it was really good,” Hall said. “The kids had a lot of energy, a lot of excitement.”
Hall said his team is going to hit the fundamentals hard in the preseason as well as get into basketball shape.
The Sparks girls basketball team, led by coach Frank Avilla, was one of the local team waiting to tip its season until Monday.
Avilla, who coached the Railroaders’ boys soccer team into the state semifinals, Friday, is entering his first full year at the helm after taking over midway through last season.
“This time of the year is always exciting…,” Avilla said. “We’re looking forward to some good stuff. We have some good returners this year.
Thirty girls have signed up to play this winter. Avilla said he would like to increase that number but is going to “work with what he has.”
Avilla will use most of the preseason workouts to implement a new offense, featuring his team’s speed. He plans to galvanize the speed, working on his team’s conditioning.
Avilla said his team lacks size this year and described the offense as “run-and-gun.”
“We expect good hustle, good attitude and good fortitude,” Avilla said. “I think with those things, we are going to be fine.”
The most dominant wrestling program in the North, Spanish Springs, also waited until Monday to officially start its winter campaign.
The Cougars pushed out of the gates earlier, however, holding ‘open workouts’ the past few weeks.
Spanish Springs coach Joe Imelli said 65-70 wrestlers tried out. The number is high but for a program with such success, working with a high turnout has become an annual process for Imelli.
The Cougs’ coach does not cut wrestlers but expects the number to drop with first-time wrestlers still potentially deciding “it’s not for them” and through academic eligibility issues.
“We never cut. It’s up to the kids to cut themselves,” Imelli said. “We have a philosophy over here, if you are going to put the work in and you’re willing to go through everything wrestling puts you through, you’re going to be wrestling one way or another.”
Imelli said he is going to push the high turnout before matches begin in hopes of finding out “who really wants to be there.”
The Cougars graduated nine players last spring so Imelli’s largest concern before matches begin is to get his young squad ready for varsity.
“Hopefully, if everything goes as planned, those kids are ready to go come regionals and state which is always our focus,” Imelli said.