RIPLEY – You have to start somewhere.
For the Ripley Vikings, the best place to start is on the practice field and in the weight room.  The varsity football team has begun summer workouts, which includes morning sessions of weight lifting and conditioning, and are hoping that their hard work in the offseason will pay dividends later on down the road.

“We’re here to improve every aspect of their athletic ability,” head coach David Tennant said, regarding his team’s offseason workouts,  “Last year, you could tell that we were behind.  This year, I expect to be one of the fastest, strongest teams on the field.”

If the workouts are any indication, that particular expectation isn’t far-fetched.  Several of the players get together on weekday mornings and begin with weight lifting sessions, followed by a series of conditioning drills designed to improve each player’s foot speed, agility, and technique, all overseen by the watchful eye of the coaching staff.  So far this offseason, Tennant has seen his players’ hard work rewarded, which has manifested itself in one extremely important improvement.

“Confidence,” Tennant answered quickly, “Last year, you could see that we weren’t confident.  If something happened, you saw heads go down.  There was a lot of doubt.  The weight room is huge for building confidence.  You’re stronger, you’re faster, you can do more, and we need that confidence.”

The weight training and conditioning drills will be supplemented with plenty of other activities for the Vikes.  7-on-7 drills begin next week, and will give the coaching staff their first glimpse at their skill position players in a controlled setting since the end of last season.
Tennant has been pleased so far with his team’s willingness to commit to the offseason workouts, and has also been thrilled with his players stepping up, taking charge, and holding each other accountable for their participation.

“We need players to step up and hold each other accountable,” Tennant said, “Us coaches can sit there and get on kids all year round, but we get tuned out pretty easily.  It’s when their friends are telling them ‘hey, we need you to step up because we’re depending on you to help turn this program around’ that’s when kids will start following.”

While offseason workouts have gone smoothly so far, perhaps the greatest thing the summer offers is the chance to start anew.  The Vikings two win season in 2013 is squarely in the rear-view mirror, and the players can now focus solely on improving for the upcoming season.

“If we’re down 14 points or up 14 points, we have to have the mentality that we’re going to win this game”, Tennant said, “That’s the number one thing that we need to instill.  I don’t care what the score is, I don’t care who we’re playing, we’re in this game, and we have a chance.”

Offseason workouts will continue for much of the summer, up until the 2014 season begins in August.  The Vikings open their season on the road at Parkersburg South on August 29.