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Freshmen Learn Life Lessons through Football

Hard first day of practice makes some realize there’s more to football than football.

The freshmen of South Lakes High School in Reston entered their first day of football practice on Monday Aug. 17, behaving like, well, freshmen. They left the field realizing they had some maturing to do.

"Don't stop jogging until you get to that corner," said Galvin Morris, South Lakes' freshman football head coach. "I don't want to see you guys walking anywhere."

The start of freshman football season is in full swing at South Lakes, and though it may not be the school's top team, its players are the football program's future.

"A lot of these kids haven't played before," Morris said. "It's our job to teach them the positions and the game."

The 45 freshmen looking to make the team participated in a helmet-only practice, but Morris didn't shy from giving them a taste of what's to come.

"Freshman year is like being a deer in the headlights, you're nervous," Morris said. "The kids just don't know what to expect."

Morris was right. Before the players had a chance to begin drills, Morris caught his squad off guard by disciplining a player for not paying attention.

"Run to that fence there," he said. "I'll tell you why I made you do it when you get back."

It didn't take a moment for the rest of the freshmen to immediately focus their eyes on the coach. It was obvious he meant business.

"I don't care what you did in middle school," he said. "We're trying to build a football team here."

FRESHMEN ENTERING high school can find the transition from middle school to high school tough to deal with, but programs like football can help ease them into school.

"[Football helps the transition] discipline-wise," Morris said. "They have to go to practice every day, they learn how to conduct themselves in the building and in the community," he said. "That's stuff we emphasize, not just football stuff. It's also about life."

Morris said that the respect he expects out of his players on the practice field is also expected of them in the classroom.

"I tell them to look people in the eye, have respect," he said. "We work in the building. Just because we are not in the classroom doesn't mean you shouldn't respect others. You should respect your teacher like they're a coach."

Some of the freshmen going out for the team are seasoned veterans of youth football. Others are just learning how to play football or are looking for an activity.

Regardless of the experience level, the tough practice took some by surprise.

"I've been slacking around all summer," said Ray Terry, 14. "It was just hard out there."

Others were affected by the muggy weather.

"I'm from Michigan, so I'm not really used to this heat," said Michael Shoebottom, 14. "It was really tough out there, but it was exciting."

Morris recognized that while the freshman football program doesn't have priority over the varsity team, the lessons learned at this level would strengthen the foundation of future teams.

"I've coached at the varsity level, so I know what it takes to get there," Morris said. "My job is to teach them the fundamentals. It's my goal to give these kids a shot at making varsity next year."

While varsity football might be on the minds of some of the freshmen, the life lessons that are embedded in the game and practice aren't lost on the young athletes.

"Football teaches discipline, a lot of discipline," Terry said. "You got to pay attention, you have to work together. It's the only way you can win."

Even though the first game against Herndon High School is still weeks away, the players are anxious to take the field for gridiron glory.

"I'm just looking forward to playing against other schools," Terry said. "I want to make varsity, win [the state championship] and play in college."