Player Approved, Heels Embrace Morning Practices
CHARLOTTE – Mack Brown the first time, Carl Torbush, John Bunting, Butch Davis, Everett Withers and Larry Fedora all preferred their football teams practice in the afternoons during the season, so that’s what the Tar Heels did for three decades.
But Brown’s second stint at North Carolina is coming with plenty of changes, among them is when the Heels will practice this season.
Say so long to afternoon grinds and late nights studying and say hello to breakfast with the Heels. The team went through a trial run during the spring, which was forced due to some players’ quirky class schedules. It went so well, the team has adopted it full time.
“We went through the entire spring and then we got to a point where we had to make a decision for fall for the academic calendar,” Brown said Thursday at the ACC Kickoff. “Are we going to go early or are we going to keep it like the traditional afternoon?
“So we had the players talk about it for three or four days in their meetings. We pitched them three different possibilities: Afternoon, early morning, or mid-afternoon. They were unanimous that they took the early morning.”
The players ultimately made the choice, sort of putting it to a vote, though the hierarchy in the locker room had plenty of pull.
“We made the decision as seniors and kind of the whole (team) if we wanted to keep that and it was a unanimous decision,” senior offensive tackle Charlie Heck said.
Unanimous in the end, but that wasn’t the case initially. The players had to hash it out some and pull some of the teammates through.
“There were a few people that aren’t morning people but they saw the light eventually,” Heck said, smiling.
Previously, the Tar Heels practiced at around 4 pm and usually went until 6. Now, they will usually go from 8-10 am. That was pretty much the schedule in March and April, and Heck knew early on he preferred going in the morning.
“The first week,” he said. “After we got that first week out, we were like ‘this is what we’ve got to do.’ And going to class is so much better.”
The benefits to practicing in the morning as opposed to the afternoon are considerable Heck and senior safety Myles Dorn said. It helps the players’ regiment, but also they say it will help academically and allow them to have somewhat of a social life outside of football.
“They felt like it was better for study halls in the afternoon,” Brown said. “We'll have our player meetings in the afternoons. And then they are off at night and they have to go to bed early because they will be in the building sometimes at 6 a.m. in the morning.”
Change for the sake of change doesn’t always work out, but change that’s already been tested, approved and preferred can only be considered a positive for the Tar Heels.