IRMO, SC (WIS) - With the high school football season slowly approaching, teams are working hard now to hopefully achieve the ultimate goal of hoisting a state championship trophy when it's all said and done.
However, some teams aren't just going through X's and O's and grinding in the weight room.
Coming off their Class 5-A state championship win, the Dutch Fork Silver Foxes are implementing karate into their summer routine.
"I want us to get a little more focused, a little more coordination, and karate does both of those avenues," said Dutch Fork strength and conditioning coach Noah Dixon. "I also want to get a little more togetherness and everybody will have one goal and that's to win."
Using karate to sharpen their focus, Dixon said the players can use what they've learned and apply it as they learn plays, staying focused on the game, and knowing their assignments.
"I think what we did this morning is only going to help cultivate the idea of never giving up, pushing hard, and having control of your mind and your body," said eighth-degree black belt and Dutch Fork alum Bryan Pena. "We focused. We learned our techniques. Everybody came together in a beautiful way and I'm very proud of them."
Pena, who leads the karate exercises with Dutch Fork, has practiced the martial art for 33 years now. When Coach Dixon asked Pena to teach his players, Pena gladly accepted the invitation.
"When Coach reached out to me and invited me back to tour the school, to meet the players, and to be a part of this winning program, I didn't hesitate to say yes," Pena said. "I asked him when he wanted me there and here I am. It's been a pleasure to be out here with Coach and watching him work these guys like he would with me so many years ago."
The exercise not only broke the monotony for the Silver Foxes, but it also gave them something to look forward to other than football.
"Whenever you come out here in July," said Dutch Fork senior wide receiver Elijah Ngugi, "there's a schedule that you get used to. You wake up, you come to the weight room at 7:30 a.m., but whenever he told us we were having the karate dude, it was really nice to see him demonstrate and having Coach Knotts take a break out of our practice. I just appreciate that. It was kind of fun to get hype with the guys and do some karate moves."
Practice for all high school teams in South Carolina officially begins July 28.