Naugatuck football starts from square one

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BY KEN MORSE
CITIZEN’S NEWS
There’s still a ways to go before kickoff and the opening night of the football season but the Greyhounds have already risen to the occasion, thanks to a generous donation from the Naugatuck Police Union, including sergeants Otis Baskins and Jake Pinho.
The Naugatuck football team proudly displayed their new practice jerseys, courtesy of the NPD, as the Greyhounds entered the CIAC’s newly established OTAs – organized team activities, a three-day period which starts the preseason.
The new practice jerseys display one word on the back, ‘Rise’, as in rise to the occasion with the Greyhounds heading into the season as the defending NVL champions.
“Sergeant Baskins is a longtime friend of mine and asked to come and talk to the team,” said Naugatuck coach Chris Anderson. “After he spoke with the team he said the union wanted to pick up something for us. Without hesitation they did it and got each player practice shirts and shorts. Very impressive how they supported these kids.
“These kids see that the community is behind them and that means an awful lot. That’s one of the reasons I love Naugatuck is that the town shows up and supports these kids. Not only from the school administration, but it goes out into the community with the quarterback club, the alumni association, the police force. Everyone is all hands on deck and that means a lot to these kids.”
The CIAC mandated last year that the spring football practice week will be replaced by a new three-day period of OTA. In 2019, 101 teams across Connecticut opted for the extra days in the fall with 39 teams opting for spring practice.
Based on the declining numbers of participating teams the CIAC wanted to put everyone on the same page and the OTA was created. Teams are allowed to distribute equipment, fit players for helmets, issue lockers and hand out playbooks. They can go over program rules and locker room behavior, team expectations, review video and conduct chalk talks.
“We handed out playbooks,” said Anderson. “We did some chalk talk. When we were on the field we did some conditioning but this was all done without any pads or using any footballs.”
Not everyone is a big fan of the newly instituted regulation of OTAs considering the restrictions that are involved. There can be walkthrough teaching drills, including stances, spacing and cadence. Stretching and safety techniques are taught but use of any equipment is forbidden. There are also no full-speed activities such as pass patterns or sled work, which limits what actually can be accomplished.
“We always start from square one,” added Anderson. “No matter if you are a senior, a returning player or a freshman. When it comes to instruction we always start from ground zero. But again, because you are not wearing pads, because you are not using footballs, how do you run pass routes? It gets very boring for the kids.”
Coaches are allowed 90 minutes a day over the three-day OTA period before they begin conditioning with pads, followed by contact practices on Aug.20. Not all teams across the state are even doing the OTAs, opting to wait until they can use equipment and hit the field running.
With only 27 days to work with before the first football game, Anderson is not a huge fan of this newly implemented way of doing things.
“I understand completely that we want to keep the kids as safe as we can,” said Anderson. “But not really sure how this helps in the long run when we have only 24 days to prepare for the season because the first three days we are standing around with not a whole lot we can do.
“You can’t wear equipment and you can’t use footballs. I don’t see how this is better than spring football practice. You are limited to playbook, just getting organized, conditioning and doing some footwork stuff. It’s not really football.”
The defending NVL champions will kick off the season at home on Sept. 9 against the new league’s co-op team, Gilbert/Northwestern/Housatonic, at 7 p.m.