Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
By Greg Kennedy
For Oxford Middle School’s 8th grade football team, the spring could not come soon enough. This week, 60 players strapped on their cleats and donned the helmet and shoulder pads to participate in spring practice sessions.
Perry Swindall is entering his third season as head coach of Oxford Middle School’s 8th grade football team. While the number of players is unusually high for spring practice, Swindall’s expectations of the players and goals for the spring practice sessions remain the same as in the past.
“The first expectation of the spring is to try and get an introduction to kids to see who wants to play,” said Swindall. “The first part of that commitment is drawing pads, getting a locker and actually showing up and practicing.”
Fundamentals and teamwork were the key focal points for practice this week. Swindall says he tires to provide an environment that is both competitive and fun for all players.
“The way we practice, there are actually lots of competitive opportunities,” Swindall said. “Our individual drills are very competitive. We try to go against the defense as often as we can, and we try to keep score as often as we can.”
Standout outside linebacker and team captain D.T. Thompson is looking forward to the challenge of not only improving himself mentally and physically, but also improving the play and attitude of his teammates.
“I like when we all come together as a team and we practice each other,” Thompson said. “If I get a tackle in the backfield and the defense goes crazy, I will actually give more props to the offense for their effort than I do for my teammates on my side of the football.”
Many of the players that will take the field in the 2013 season have been teammates for three or four years. Offensive lineman William Hawkins says knowing each other so well has given the young Chargers a unique strength heading into spring practice.
“We have been together for quite a while now. We are very close knitted and really like a family in that way,” said Hawkins.
Over the past two seasons, Swindall’s teams have amassed a combined record of 14 wins and two losses. However, Swindall says that records are unimportant if academic achievement in the classroom falters.
“The biggest issue between now and the end of school will be academics. Every two weeks we have arranged study halls for kids who have make-up work to be done or kids that need extra help with schoolwork,” Swindall said.
The players will be given two weeks off at the end of school and begin practicing two days a week starting in June.
“After June 6th, we actually start working out and practicing two days a week for an hour and a half,” Swindall said. “The thing I tell them is enjoy their two weeks off and then come back ready to work two days a week on really being a great football team next year.”
The 8th grade Oxford Middle School Chargers will open their season August 24 by hosting a football jamboree at Vaught-Hemingway Stadium on the campus of Ole Miss.
Oxford Middle School’s 8th grade football coach, Perry Swindall, talks about his focus when it comes to training young players.