Football season is almost upon us: you can feel it in the air, smell it in the grass, and see it on the faces of weary fans across Gamecock nation. We are starved for football. And, while it's true that the season may be another 30 or so days away, that does not mean that you have to wait that long to see your Gamecocks play. The true football connoisseur will tell you that fall practice is actually one of the most exciting moments of the year: a prologue to the story, an appetizer to the main dish, if you will. It's more than just a time killer, it's an opportunity to see the new players test themselves against some of the best in the game, and see the seasoned veterans get back into football shape.
You have probably heard about this on the local news radio and thought "no that's not for me", or "that sounds boring. Why do you want to watch football practice?" But, rest assured, if you follow the steps then fall practice can be just as fun as going to the actual game.
1. Perhaps the number one thing to know coming into fall practice are the main off-season story lines. Go back through the archives of Garnet and Black Attack to see what stories the pundits find intriguing, and figure out what to watch for during practice. Knowledge is power, and the more you know the better of a time you will have.
2. Knowledge is power and an updated version of the depth chart is your best friend. I'd recommended that you bring a physical copy in case you a) run out of battery on your smart phone, or b) cannot see the screen because of sun glare. Also, as you examine the stories of the off-season, take a pen and mark the players on the roster who you are most interested in seeing. This will allow you to track players, and their progress during the practices you attend.
3. What to bring: Although you won't actually be playing, it still gets hot in early August in South Carolina which means that liquid of some sort is highly advisable (leave the alcohol at home). There is a Sonic located conveniently on the way to the practice fields that I always stop into. Usually I get their largest drink and some tater tots or mozzarella sticks. Of course you can always bring your own snacks; however, don't go overboard. This is a football practice not a picnic.
Next I would advise that you bring something to sit on. The practice field ground is very soft and nice, but you're going to be there for a while you might so you might as well bring a lawn chair. Although, if you plan on getting a good seat, plan on arriving 45 min to an hour before practice begins. Don't worry about getting bored, you can catch the kickers warming up by practicing punts and field goals before the rest of the team comes out.
So there you have it - 3 easy steps to making fall practice a yearly part of your football schedule. There is one more topic that needs to be discussed: proper etiquette.
First, here is a review of the official press statement.
The South Carolina Gamecock football team will open fall camp on Friday, August 2. The first practice, which is open to the public will begin at 7:15p.m. at the Bluff Road practice fields, across the street from Williams-Brice Stadium.
The first week of practices will remain open to the public. Players will not be available for autographs before, during or after the practice sessions. In addition, pets are not permitted on the practice fields. All fans and media attending the practice sessions must stay behind the yellow rope.
Cameras (still and video) are allowed for the first 30 minutes of practice only.
· Starts Friday, August 2nd at 7:30.
· No autographs, or pets.
· Stay behind the yellow line.
· NO video or photos after the first 30 minutes.
The staff is very serious about staying behind the yellow line, as well as locking down the cameras after the first 30 minutes. I've seen more than a few (very nice) cameras be confiscated by university officials, and several fans be asked to leave, and not return, because they couldn't simply follow the rules. Just let it go, and enjoy being there!
It's important to understand that while football is a physical game, and - yup - being a fan is a physical activity, attending a football practice is very different than a game. The atmosphere is more similar to that of a golf tournament, or a tennis match; the staff and players are on a razor's edge, and the spectator should simply be a fly on the wall. Of course, the crowd will cheer for good plays and has a tendency to get into the wide receiver versus defensive back (1 versus 1) drills more than others. The point is: let the guys do their stuff.
The next logical question: "What exactly will I see?" Football! Honestly, though, the drills may change on a daily basis, but what you see on the first practice will probably be similar to what happens through the rest of camp. In the past that has included special teams works, position specific drills, wide receiver versus defensive back (1vs1), 7 versus 7 passing skeletons, and 11 on 11 situational scrimmages. Because of where spectators sit, you should have an up-close and personal view of the defense, and more specifically, the defensive line.
Finally, dont be afraid to bring a friend, the wife, or kids! There is an area where kids play touch football, it gets cooler when the sun goes down, and practice is a great way to explain, more in depth, the ins and outs of football to your significant-other, or shoot the crap with friends. Happy football season and enjoy this opportunity!