Ford City coach says opening practices emphasize play-learning over physicality
TribLIVE Sports Videos
As Ford City football players headed to the locker room after finishing sprints at the end of their first training camp day Monday, assistant Joe Stivason studied the boys' physical conditions.
“They're not even huffing and puffing!” Stivason joked to coach John Bartolovic.
“Aw, we've gone soft,” Bartolovic answered.
The Sabers' longtime coach won't deny that the nature of his training camp has changed. In Bartolovic's 25 years as a head coach, including his last 17 at Ford City, season-opening practices have become more cerebral. He refuses to coddle players, so there's still hitting on day one. But the amount of time spent on punishing drills has dwindled, while playbook talk has increased.
“We're a lot more advanced, play-wise,” Bartolovic said. “When we first came here 17 years ago, we probably had five, six, seven plays in. And now, I couldn't even count. I think it's because we do a lot more in the summer. The kids have been with us, and they understand the system.”
The summer work included a stop at the Carnegie Mellon team camp and weekly participation in the Riverview passing league.
Bartolovic appreciates what the Sabers can accomplish at a summer showdown against other local schools. Receivers learn routes. Quarterbacks learn reads. Defensive backs and linebackers learn how to adjust to formations.
But he stops short of championing passing scrimmages as football sans pads.
“Some teams don't play it honestly,” he said. “They don't play it like they actually would on a Friday night. They have their linebackers spread out everywhere. … If we ever saw that, we'd just run the fullback trap.”
Training camp, which will continue through next week, gives Bartolovic a chance to enjoy the grittier side of football. His goal is to embrace that aspect but to still get all of his players through camp without anyone suffering an injury.
When Bartolovic and his staff first eased up on full-speed hitting drills became a subject of debate among his assistants, a couple of whom played under Bartolovic.
“It probably started after me,” said assistant J.J. Bartolovic, the coach's son and a 2004 Ford City graduate.
The other assistants claimed J.J. perhaps remembered a little too much glory from his playing days. But the elder Bartolovic agreed with his son's assessment.
Bartolovic plans to let his players hit each other with full force for a bit Wednesday. Assistant Ben Golab acknowledged he never had to wait that long for serious tackling when he played a decade ago.
“(J.J. and I) talk about that all the time, that our camp was a lot tougher, and we had to hit a lot more than they did,” Golab said. “But I think it works out for us that we do it this way. We have fewer injuries, and the kids are a little bit fresher.”
Bill West is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 724-543-1321.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Starkey: Pederson had to go at Pitt
- Penguins’ Fleury tests negative for mumps; Crosby skates with team
- Judge dismisses littering charge against City Council president Kraus
- Steelers, young and old, thirst for opportunity to reach the postseason
- Pittsburgh Public Schools adopts no-tax-increase budget for 2015
- Pederson’s 2nd tenure as the athletic director at Pitt comes to abrupt end
- Butler’s chief clerk files discrimination, retaliation complaint
- Public Utility Commission grants Lyft license to operate
- QB Smith is chief concern for Steelers’ defense
- Armstrong man dies in single-vehicle crash
- Chryst returns home, named football coach at Wisconsin