Andover football coach Rich Wilkie started Monday morning by engaging in the least enjoyable parts of his job.
Assigning lockers. Distributing equipment. Reviewing player registrations. By dotting the I’s and crossing the T’s of logistics in the morning, Wilkie freed the afternoon for players and coaches alike to focus on the X’s and O’s on the field.
“It’s just easier to not try and get guys what they need at the same time you’re trying to get practice going,” said Wilkie, who laughed upon discovering only one of two freshman twin brothers brought registration forms. “We’re just using the morning to exhale and do the stuff we don’t necessarily like doing.”
Once situated, players performed tasks akin to the NFL scouting combine. Inside a gymnasium, coaches logged broad- and vertical-jump measurements and shuttle run times. Outside in the football stadium, players ran a timed 40-yard dash as teammates cheered them on.
Not until the afternoon did players more officially begin the quest for a third consecutive Class 5A state tournament appearance. The road is much different this season. Andover, which exclusively played Class 6A teams during the past two regular seasons despite a 5A postseason section assignment, plays just one 6A team (Buffalo) this season.
Instead of seven games against Northwest Suburban Conference teams, Andover sees just one — defending 5A champion Elk River — this fall. Though Wilkie’s focus is on postseason success, a less-rugged schedule could result in better record. The Huskies went a combined 6-10 in the past two regular seasons.
Volleyball enthusiasm reigns
Next door in the school’s main gym, volleyball coach Connie Huberty also had success on her mind as her players working through conditioning drills. Andover’s 9-20 record owed to inexperience, said Huberty, adding, “I really feel that we’re going to surprise some people.”
All of the Huskies’ setters and outside hitters return. They joined teammates Monday morning in the gym, rotating through core exercises, plyometrics and jumping rope. Music played and a horn signaled it was time to change drills. Huberty, in her 31st year as a volleyball coach, relished the scene.
“It’s not hard to still have the enthusiasm,” she said. “It’s hard work to get things going but I’m still smiling. I still want to be here.”