MYRTLE BEACH | Those who play and coach football are typically hardened, tough men capable of handling any amount of pain. And those who aren’t that tough usually fake it.
That’s why there was an odd sight earlier this week during practices for Saturday’s North-South All-Star game. The players and their prep coaches – along with the hoards of college coaches on hand to scout prospects – were bundled up tightly in caps, gloves and thick jackets, eschewing the sport’s hard-man, cold-weather principles for comfort.
The temperature didn’t crest 30 degrees on Tuesday, and the stiff breeze blowing in off the ocean pushed the wind chill down into the teens. That is typical football weather in the North, but it was obvious the conditions were taking the toll on this group of players and hindering their ability to perform at their peak.
That also makes it difficult for the college coaches on hand to effectively evaluate the players they came to see.
“It definitely affects their performance,” Hutchinson Community College coach Rion Rhoades said. “I think you definitely have to factor that in. That’s why I really like to be here for four or five practices. That way you can see a little more than just one day when a kid might be really struggling with the cold or whatever.
“I would like for it to be nice so you can see them at their best.”
Presbyterian coach Harold Nichols, who has a commitment from North quarterback Tamyn Garrick of Williston-Elko, agrees.
“When you evaluate young men there are a lot of factors that go into it,” he said. “Obviously when you come down here you get to see them against the best players in the state, but you have to take a lot of things into consideration. You evaluate film through their high school years and then you evaluate them in the summer time during camps.
“You have to take the weather into consideration. It’s hard for the quarterbacks to hold onto the balls and throw the ball.”
Rhoades and his staff have been making a yearly trek to South Carolina for the North-South and Shrine Bowl weeks since he took over in 2006.
It’s often around those weeks when the weather starts to drastically change in the Carolinas, shifting from mild falls to crisp winters. That doesn’t help the quality of football, but it does help college coaches assess a certain quality of the players they are recruiting.
“I coached up north for 10 years,” Nichols said. “I can remember being up there and when it turned Oct. 1 it changed like this all the time. You had to have some kids with mental toughness able to put their weather out of their minds and be able to focus on the task at hand. This is great preparation for these kids to be able to play and practice this late in the year. That’s a good tool.”
It will also be in use at next week’s Shrine Bowl practices in Spartanburg. Temperatures on Monday aren’t expected to crest freezing and snow flurries are possible, creating an interesting dynamic for southern players not used to northern conditions.
Still, the practices must go on.
“I think the weather is actually a benefit to us,” North Greenville offensive coordinator Jim Beverly said. “You get to see retention and how well they overcome adversity. They’ve got to learn a system in a week and having to overcome the weather is [even more challenging].”