A few years back, ABC debuted a show called, “Shaq Versus,” where NBA hall-of-famer Shaquille O’Neal took on other professionals in their respective sports. At the time, I suggested I should do a “Simmons Versus,” feature where I go and take part in team practices and report back.
After seeing what was going on at Nunley Stadium Wednesday night, I’m officially retiring that idea.
I witnessed nearly 70 players flying around to workouts that ranged from grueling to seemingly impossible. And instead of thinking I’d see broken bodies bent over trashcans, I saw smiles and looks of determination. And yes, some vomiting too.
The Pioneers are doing things differently now. And by different, I mean more difficult.
I thought running a hill or steps was tough enough, but then they added in carrying 20-50 pounds of weight. That was the light weight stuff too.
In one of the most grueling exercises, groups of 4-5 players had to team up to carry a 106-pound kettlebell the length of the field (120 yards including endzones) and back. I lifted it once and made it maybe one yard. If I could find three more people to carry it the other 239 yards, I’d be ready to suit up this fall.
The exercises didn’t stop there either.
Coach Matt Turner and WCMS coach Ben Matheney may be able to cut their gas cost this summer. The high school players looked pretty adept and pushing their trucks around the track. Yes, the old blocking sleds were replaced by two-ton trucks.
In another workout, players flipped giant tires the length of the field. When they were done, they had to turn around and take the wheel back to the other side. During a water break, I lifted the tire and my body sounded like a bowl of Rice Krispies – snap, crackle and pop.
Every time I thought to myself, “OK, these kids won’t be able do this,” they went a little harder. They ran full speed with 12-foot-long PVC pipes full of water (look up “slosh pipe” sometime. It will destroy your abs). The Pioneers carried weights while running sprints. They did everything.
And at the end of the night, they showed their strength to the WCHS coaches.
A tense tug-of-war pitted eight staff members against the top Pioneer team from a night of competition. When the whistle blew, the players started to move the coaches – perhaps with the help of a few more guys joining in late.
The Pioneers wanted more. I applauded their effort… with tired arms.