In the Eye of the Bulldog

My FASDOGS Journey in Greenwood

When a friend approached me about participating in a speed/agility training camp in Greenwood with a bunch of high school kids, I wasn’t too quick to jump on board. I knew I could probably do it, I just wasn’t sure getting up early and driving to Greenwood every morning for 3 weeks was something I wanted to do. And, I was little concerned I would be the only “old guy” there (besides the coaches…I’ll get to that in a bit) and I didn’t want it to come across that I was trying to compete or even beat kids 20+ years younger than me. I’m 37. I embrace my age and am happy about where I am in my health and fitness for the most part, but I have nothing to prove. After further discussion, she reassured me that there would be “older” adults who would also be there, so I wouldn’t be alone. I enjoy a challenge. So, sure. Why not? I like a good sweat and burning some early morning calories is never a bad thing. The prize at the end of 3 weeks to those who went 100% and didn’t miss a day was a t-shirt. I like t-shirts and this one would be fun to get.

I’m in. Let’s do this.

If you’re not familiar with Greenwood Athletics, I encourage you to do some research. You will learn that their athletic program is no joke. I’m not sure how many championships they have total, but it’s a lot. Every sport in Greenwood typically has a great season, not just the football team. And this camp, (FASDOGS – Fundamentals, Agility, Speed, and “Dogs” for the Greenwood Bulldogs)  wasn’t for just the football players. Next to a senior right guard, you might see a sophomore volleyball setter, or a freshmen tennis player. Male, female, young, old.. they’re all there, everyday, getting better. Well, let me backtrack here… there were no “older” people like I was promised. I was the oldest person there participating, and not by just a few years and I’m fairly certain I was older than at least 3 coaches (maybe more.) That was odd, but I decided to just except it for what it was and have fun with it. I would push myself, but not over do it; I would encourage others as I felt comfortable doing. For a few hours every morning, I would lose myself in the moment of just being one in the crowd, and hoped I didn’t cause any ripples. I didn’t mind the kids seeing an old man working hard, I just didn’t want them thinking I was there to try and prove I was better than them. Let’s get one thing straight, I absolutely am not better than them. In fact, many times I thought back to when I was in 3rd or 4th grade (yes, they start as early as 3rd grade) or a freshmen or even a senior in high school. I wasn’t doing this kind of stuff then. Not even close. So yes, they are indeed much better than me.

Some may wonder why Greenwood Athletics are so superior. Not me. I got to witness first hand just what makes a Bulldog a Bulldog. It was incredible. The camaraderie of teammates, the organization of the coaching and training staff, and a lifelong tradition that has followed these kids since birth of what it takes to be a champion. It’s not just taught there in Greenwood, it’s preached, put on signs, and can be heard not just in GMAC or the stadium, but across the whole town. The whole town. I imagine Greenwood being like one of those small town football movies where the town shuts town for a few hours on Football Friday nights. I don’t know if that really happens, but I wouldn’t be surprised. For 3 weeks, the group I was in started at 6:30am ON THE DOT. Not one second before, not one second after. Consistency, repetition, hard work….then getting up and doing the same thing again the next day, and the next, and the next. It’s a pretty solid system that I would encourage other schools to do, although maybe the coaches at Greenwood wouldn’t be too fond of me saying that. I’m sure other area schools have something similar to FASDOGS, but I don’t really know. I do know that Greenwood wins, and now I know why. Do they have the “best players” in all the “best positions”? No. Probably not. What they have is a mentality that to win you have to work hard. Period. The end.

For 3 weeks I made the trek to Greenwood, about 18 minutes from the house. It’s a peaceful drive down Hwy 71, and with the top off the Jeep, the drive was even better. I was joined by my friend, neighbor, “sister” and Greenwood Sophomore Camryn Presley. She’s a volleyball player, and a darn good one at that. This camp was just as much for her as it was for me. All athletes in Greenwood were “encouraged” to participate and by “encouraged” I really mean “required.” Missing a day resulted in some sort of punishment, the main one being not getting a t-shirt at the end. This program was all about getting faster, more flexible and overall a better player and person. Drills included things like high knees, ladders, cone drills, box jumps, push-ups, planks, to name a few, and of course, sprints. Sprints were reserved for Thursdays. Every Thursday for 3 weeks we’d end the morning with sprints on the field at Smith Robinson Stadium. I hated sprints in high school, and I can say that I hate sprints at 37. There’s something stark and solid about sprints. You may appear to be competing against the person next to you, but by the end, you’re just racing yourself, trying not to quit and praying it will end soon. It was great.

After the first week, I’d embraced this program and was proud I had made the decision to tackle it. I was going to see it through to the end and I was getting that t-shirt. In addition to agility exercises, we also hit the weight room. Squats, bench press, power clean…all of it. I’m not big fan of lifting honestly, certainly not heavy weight, but I know it’s important. I like pressing lighter weight and lots of reps and for the most part I stuck to that. Every now and then I’d put a little too much weight on just to see if I could still do it, and turns out, I can’t. I was pretty solid in high school, but I’m not interested in the bulk, I lean towards the burn. So, I fell into groups that I could get that burn I yearned for. I race mountain bikes, so hurting myself was the last thing I wanted to do, and I’m happy to say I stayed injury free (for the most part) during the 3 week program.

The coaching staff were great. They pushed us and made sure we stayed with the mission of working as hard as we could for as long as we could. They were strict but forgiving. If you fell or messed up a drill they didn’t yell at you but did reward with making you do push-ups. I did my fair share of push-ups too. I’m no spring chicken and I’m not near as coordinated as I remember being when I was younger. By the end though, I could certainly tell I had improved and that was what it was all about. By the end of the first week it was apparent that no “older” people were participating (by the way, that’s changing next year!) I was given the nickname “Dad” probably because of my age … and mustache. I didn’t mind. It was actually kind of a compliment, I think. One day, I did a certain movement during a drill wrong and one coach called me out. “Sir, put your other arm up.” Sir. He called me sir. A coach can’t call me sir, can he? Apparently they can if they are YOUNGER than you, and there were at least 4 coaches I know were younger. That was a weird feeling, but again, I embraced the atmosphere and carried on.

On the last day, sprint day, I was ready for it to be over. The cloud cover overhead gave us a little relief as we sprinted down the field. But after the second 40 yard dash, my left hamstring decided to give me a little reminder that I was 37 playing outside with a field full of kids. It starting cramping. Bad. But I refused to stop. I’d gone this far and I could see that t-shirt. I fought through the rest of the sprints, stretching and groaning after each one. “Are you okay sir? Do you need some water, sir?” At the very end, after we got our shirts, the Greenwood Fire Department met us in the end zone for a much needed cool down. As I stood there and let the water from the fire hose hit me from overhead, I was overcome with emotion about this experience. But likely, that was just the hamstring telling me to go home.

To Coach Jones, Sandifer, Staton, Chick, Nation, Hanes, Daniel, Lauren, Hollaway, Young, Kinkade, and Gill….thank you. If I missed anyone I apologize. I did it. I’m proud that I did it and honestly, I’ll do it again next year. I’m not from Greenwood, but everyone treated me like a part of the team. I can’t be accused of being a “bandwagon” Greenwood fan because I spent 3 weeks in the trenches with them, for just a brief time, but long enough to truly know what it’s like to be inside the Eye of the Bulldog. I learned that you can’t be too young or too old to be a Bulldog. I can’t be more excited about the 2017-18 season and attending some football and volleyball games.

I’ll be the old man wearing his t-shirt, his 100% Bulldog t-shirt.

Approximate calories burned in the 3 week program (12 days total): 13,200

Flexibility: greatly improved

Speed: greatly improved

Strength: improved

Coordination: better

Learn more about FASDOGS here.