Spring training part 1: focus on new programs and skill building

Basics, fundamentals and team building — these are the focuses of several Lawrence University teams working hard in the offseason. Viking football, volleyball and soccer have all begun spring training and are looking ahead to the fall season with their eyes on the prize. This week, we’ll get an inside look at the spring regimens of the football and volleyball teams.

For the football team, fresh faces on the coaching staff and an upgraded Banta Bowl on the way set the tone for a revitalization of the program.

“We’ve had a couple rough years,” commented junior Brady Busha. “You have to realize that’s in the past. What we can do is look to the future, look at this brand new stadium, this brand new coaching staff, a brand new offense and defense. It’s all about looking to the future and making it the best we can.”

The Vikings have spent every other morning working hard in the weight room at 6 a.m. with team lifts since the end of the regular season. “It seems like everyone’s excited to get a new season so far,” said Busha. “We’ve been bonding the entire offseason in and out of the weight room. We’re all in it together, and we’re ready for some changes.”

Those changes include new methods on both offense and defense. “Usually spring ball over the past couple years has been about implementing new scheme type things, remembering all our plays and things like that,” Busha explained. “But with the new coaching staff, we’ve got to dive into a brand new system on both sides of the ball. We also make sure we’re continuing to work on fundamentals. Offense is working on pre-snap movement. Defense is working on their hand placement.” It’s the little things.

While the team gets momentum during spring training, a lot of individual responsibility comes into play once the players go their separate ways for the summer. “It all comes down to accountability,” said Busha. “It’s making yourself responsible to put in the work over the summer and make sure you’re on par with where you need to be before fall football camp starts in August. It comes down to who’s hitting the weight room, who’s doing the workouts, who’s finishing what they need to finish.”

Viking volleyball has also been returning to fundamentals to establish a foundation for a successful season. “We focus on the basics of it all,” said freshman Colleen Nowlan of spring training. “Perfect passing form, good footwork and not so much game play. We do progressions. We pass with just our arms then work on adding in movement. For hitting, we work on approaches over and over, without even hitting the ball for most of practice.” These are the ingredients to the main course. These are the cogs in the wheel.

“Volleyball is a team sport, but it’s very individual as far as our skills,” explained Nowlan. “Over the summer, we take what we need to focus on and practice what we need to. Then when we come back, we put it all together.” The Lady Vikes boast players from as far as Washington and California, so summer is a time to build up those individual skills in order to contribute to the team come fall.

As far as the 2015 season goes, Lawrence volleyball has big plans. “We want to make it to the conference tournament,” said Nowlan. “We had a really good season this year, so we want to build off of that. We have 10 freshmen. We want to continue to build the program up and keep the tight team up and keep that going into next year.”

With a young, enthusiastic group of volleyball players and a football program on the cusp of a new era, Viking athletics are bound to have an exciting fall season in 2015, but the hard work starts now.