Talk about taking a step back in time.
Even though the North Suncoast 7-on-7 Passing League is in full swing, with 16 Pasco and Hernando County teams participating, there's been a lull. Not only did teams have a week off due to Independence Day, but games this past week and the week of June 26 have been rained out, with the latter called due to the storms from Tropical Storm Debby.
"We all understand there's nothing you can do about controlling the weather," Fivay coach and league coordinator Chris Taylor said. "It has been a little frustrating this year, especially since this is the first summer where two have been rained out."
Coaches are now presented with going back to what football teams did before the 7-on-7, sling-and-shoot craze swept the country. These teams have been focusing on workouts and game plans instead practicing 7-on-7 plays.
"We're going old school," Taylor said with a laugh. "It's a challenge to keep kids focused when the whole point of the passing league is to have a little fun, play friends and run around, but there also never used to be these leagues. We're just plugging away, going about the usual business that we always do."
What's hurting players and coaches the most is there are even fewer opportunities for an up-and-coming athlete to prove himself in semi-competition. Coaches like to use the summer, and now 7-on-7 leagues and tourneys, to try out new players and give them a chance to show improvement and talent.
"I'm sure most of us are in the same boat," Pasco coach Tom McHugh said. "You have to amp up your competition at practices. It's not a bad thing to put pressure on them, but each has to work harder because now there's less of a chance."
Taylor says coaches proposed moving the game time from 5:30 to 3, however, parents were hard pressed to get off work or get their athletes to games that early. And with this past week, teams that have to travel a good distance don't even bother heading out, knowing that rain and lightning will just force them to turn right around.
"When Mother Nature gets involved there's nothing you can do about it, so I'm not going to drag my team all the way to Land O' Lakes for nothing," McHugh said, referring to driving to Tuesday's site hosted by the Gators.
McHugh adds that, as a coach, he still prepares during the summer weekly, as if it were the regular season. It's an aspect he enjoys, but realizes flexibility needs to be standard.
"Think of it as if you have an algebra test that you prepare for, but the teacher is sick — it gets postponed," McHugh said. "It's no different in that you always have to be prepared."
Being prepared is one thing, but then it's also having to start over. Nearly a month between game situations is a long time, and coaches realize, sometimes, that's a step back.
"We normally play seven weeks, but it's shorter this year because of when school ends and starts," Taylor said. "This has been a tough layoff. It can seem that coming back after four weeks you're starting at square one. It's not beneficial, but you have to deal with that."