Football coaches differ on merits of jamboree
Sometimes, the monotony of drills under the hot August sun fits the bill for a high school football team more than a hard-hitting scrimmage.
Sure, the players enjoy the prospect of lining up against someone who isn't their teammate, but that doesn't always fit the bigger picture.
When a third scrimmage, known as a "jamboree," first became available in 2009, many Ohio coaches wanted the chance to test their players in controlled, game-like situations.
But some have cooled on that opinion.
"When it started, everyone loved the idea, and I was one of them," Hilliard Bradley coach Mike LoParo said. "When (the third scrimmage) started, I was at Delaware, and for whatever reason we had several injuries in that third scrimmage.
"We had made the playoffs the previous year (finishing 7-4 in 2008), but we lost two of our first four games (in 2009) because we were getting healed up from that third scrimmage (and finished 6-4). We don't do that anymore."
Taking the attitude of an NFL coach who doesn't like risking injuries in preseason games, LoParo wants to limit the wear and tear on his players.
Sometimes, the reason to forego a third scrimmage has less to do with football.
Northridge coach Darby Riley has to deal with several members of his team missing time each August for the Hartford Fair. That time off from practice means it's important to drill the fundamentals as much as possible.
"We went to a jamboree a couple of years ago and I don't feel like we got much out of it," Riley said. "We feel that scrimmages should be a teaching moment, especially with the young team that we have. We don't need a dress rehearsal. We'll have that when we scrimmage Centerburg (on Aug. 23)."
According to the OHSAA, a jamboree is intended to be conducted during the final three days of two-a-day practices and serve as a dress rehearsal for the regular season. Participating schools must apply to have a jamboree and pay a $250 fee that goes into an OHSAA injury insurance fund.
Olentangy Orange coach Brian Cross said three scrimmages in a 12-day period -- this year, scrimmages can be held Aug. 13-24 -- can take away from the flow of his preseason regimen. That's why the Pioneers have two scrimmages.
"I think three (scrimmages) is a little too much in such a short period of time," he said. "You have extra preparation to go up against another team and it's a distraction. I think three is one too many and that you can accomplish what you need to do with two."
Among teams in ThisWeek's coverage area, only about a dozen have opted for a third scrimmage this year.
Dublin Coffman coach Mark Crabtree doesn't always have three scrimmages, but decided to have an extra one this season "because we're not sure two is enough to get the information we need," he said. "It gives our coaches a better opportunity to evaluate our individuals and it helps us prepare for opponents we might see during the season."
Johnstown coach Mike Carter likes the way a third scrimmage breaks up the rigors of preseason drills.
"They're fun for the kids. They enjoy it and it's a chance for them to get out and play some football," Carter said. "Whenever you get the opportunity to have fun and still teach the game, you have to jump on it."
LoParo, however, isn't about to get caught up in the bait and switch of a third scrimmage, not after his past experience with injuries.
"Some people might attribute (the 2009 injuries) to the third scrimmage while others might look at it as bad luck," he said. "We open week one at Marysville (on Aug. 30) and that will be a really physical test for us. Then we beefed up our non-league schedule (adding Reynoldsburg at home Sept. 5 and playing at Orange on Sept. 12) and need to be as healthy as we can be. Ever since 2009, we haven't been tempted to have a third scrimmage."
Other coaches seem to have fallen in line with that philosophy.