Sideline Pass: Jim Bradford 5/1

Jim Bradford

By Jim Bradford PrepsKC Senior Writer
Posted: May 1, 2012 - 12:43 PM

As high school football players all around the Kansas City area prepare themselves for their respective summer weight programs next month, thoughts immediately turn to August.
You can’t help it. It’s ingrained in our heads. You are taught to look forward. I know it’s the cardinal sin when it comes to game day, but looking ahead is part of the game.
When the season starts, everyone looks forward to the playoffs. When the playoffs start, everyone looks forward to the state championship game. When the season is over, everyone’s thoughts move toward the offseason conditioning program. When spring conditioning is winding down, it’s summer weights and 7-on-7 that come to mind. And, of course, when you’re putting in those early-morning hours at the gym, you can’t wait until the start of the season.
It’s the wonderful, cyclical world of high school football.
Some say that what a team does in the offseason is the key to program progress, but is that really the case. Does hard work in March or June really make a team better come late September?
Oh, it helps, but I think that both the KSHSAA and the MSHSAA have done a pretty good job of helping those teams progress.
Huh? What? The state?
Yep, it was a decade ago that Kansas doubled the number of playoff entrants and this fall marks the five-year anniversary of a similar move in Missouri.
No, no, it has much more to do with just adding more teams to the postseason party. A playoff run does not a program make. Or does it?
There’s a reason why you happen to see the same teams in the playoffs each year. It’s because they’ve been in the playoffs each year.
Huh? What?
It’s more than a confidence thing. It’s much more. It’s that extra week if practice. The extra two weeks, three weeks or even four weeks of practice that help build a program.
When Olathe North was in their heyday in the late 90s early 00s, they had an plenty of extra time to work. From 1996 to 2004, they had 27 more weeks of practice than teams that did not advance to the state playoffs. Think about that. Getting more than three weeks of extra time each year does wonders for a program.
Meanwhile, during that same span, Olathe East – a Class 6A heavyweight now – had an extra four weeks of practice and those came after the 2002 and 2003 seasons. From 1996-2001, they didn’t qualify for the playoffs and got no extra time.
Now, East and reigning Class 6A state champ Olathe South have been mainstays in the state playoffs and have earned extra practice time on a regular basis. East has been in the state playoffs every year since 2002 and advanced to the state title game in 2005.
That extra practice was aided by the KSHSAA’s decision to take two teams from each district to the state playoffs each year. As a result, it’s leveled the playing field a bit. In Class 6A on the Kansas side, there have been five different state champions over the past five seasons.
The decade-old change by the KSHSAA hasn’t eliminated dynasties. Hutchinson won four straight Class 6A state titles from 2004-07, but it has helped bring them back to the pack a bit.
Who knows what the future holds for teams like Shawnee Mission East, SM Northwest or Leavenworth – teams that aren’t exactly synonymous with state playoff dominance – but getting an extra week or two of practice each year just might change that.
Even though we are only talking about practice. Practice! Practice?
Yeah, practice.