Prior to the T.C. Williams football team’s 2010 season opener against Robinson, head coach Dennis Randolph glanced at the Titans’ sideline and noticed an abundance of injured athletes — players who were expected to help the team but were instead relegated to cheerleading duty.
"There were, like, eight starters" out due to injury, Randolph said on July 26, thinking back to a sight that preceded a 35-2 home loss to the Rams.
TC battled the injury bug early last season and eventually finished with a 6-4 record, barely missing the playoffs for the second consecutive campaign. Recently, the Titans have been working hard during summer conditioning sessions, with hopes of avoiding injuries and ending the program’s 20-year playoff drought.
"The most important thing is that they really do get acclimated to the weather and get in good condition," Randolph said. "In [less than two weeks], they’re going to be out here with helmets on and they’re going to be running around for five hours. … The whole thing is about being ready to play the first game. You can’t do it if you come out Aug. 8. This is crucial to their physical (well being). It’s crucial that they get acclimated to the weather and get their bodies moving around and not just sitting around all summer."
While Randolph is the Titans’ head coach, he leaves most of the conditioning instruction to assistants Rodney Johnson and Avery Williams. On Tuesday, the duo was out on the track at T.C. Williams High School, leading a group of Titans through conditioning drills. Williams said there is a focus on incorporating football-specific movements into the workouts.
"I say very little. Those two guys are very enthusiastic and they’ve worked them out and they’ve done a great job," Randolph said. "[Johnson mentioned] we’d like to get over that hump and get back in the playoffs [and in order to do that], something’s got to change. You’ve got to do something different if you want different results. This has been a pretty intense offseason and our kids have responded well."
Randolph said he was impressed with the team’s conditioning during an undefeated performance at a recent 7-on-7 tournament at Wakefield High School — a credit to Johnson and Williams.
"Football is a physically challenging game and you have to be mentally tough to play this game," Johnson said. "Me and [Williams], what we try to do is push these guys to their limitations — sometimes past it — because that’s what is going to be required on the field.
"We try to get them out of their comfort zone."
Players are noticing a difference.
"Last year at this time, we didn’t have the numbers that we have out here, the number of guys working as hard," rising junior quarterback Alec Grosser said. "I think it’s real important [in] football to build team camaraderie. … I can’t stress [enough] how important it is. Seeing the same guys every single day working hard with me [and] as a team, it’s real important. Hopefully it will pay off."
As a teenager, the idea of sacrificing part of one’s summer break can make for a difficult decision, but so far, Randolph said the Titans are averaging 75 participants for Monday-through-Thursday workouts and 40 for Friday workouts.
"Some days you don’t feel like coming out here, but you’ve got to come out here and do what you’ve got to do," rising senior lineman Jose Urrutia said. "Sometimes I’ve got to keep thinking about [showing up] … but it pays off."
For the second season, Williams said, coaches are forcing each Titan to participate in 20 workouts before he receives shoulder pads. There are makeup days for those in danger of falling short — and a conditioning penalty for those who do.
So far, TC players and coaches are pleased with the results.
"The kids have been working hard; they’ve accepted the challenges we’ve presented," Williams said. "Hopefully it will transfer into the season and we’ll be very productive this year."