At 5:45 in the morning, not much is stirring on the Island. Traffic is almost nonexistent, and even the light seems to move sluggishly, taking its time to stretch across the sky.
But the Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School field hockey team, practicing on the high school fields, is in near-constant motion, and will be for the next two-plus hours. They will run sprints, maneuver the small hockey ball up and down the still-dewy grass, and take turns shooting at one of several nets on the field. By the time they’re finished, most people will just be heading out the door for work.
At 6:15, the sun has broken through the dark of morning, and other athletes have arrived at the field. Girls’ soccer begins practice at 6:30 each morning. The cross-country teams will be here most days, meeting at the track before heading out on their runs, as will the football team. Sometimes the boys’ soccer team is here, although their practices are generally evening ones.
School starts on Sept. 7, and with that begins the fall routine of afternoon practices for the athletes. During the two weeks leading up to this day, however, morning is the norm. And pushing limits is the norm. The high-schoolers will put in the early hours and power through the exhausting drills so they can be fully prepared for the weight of the fall season.
“When you practice, practice like you’re in a game!” calls field hockey coach Lisa Knight.
The predawn workouts offer one element that games — and even the upcoming afternoon practices — will not: they take place before the heat of the day has a chance to set in. During these final dog days of summer, this is a welcome attribute. Besides, as freshman soccer player Keilla Geddis notes, “I feel like I’m ready for the day” after practice, tiring though it may be.
Freshman players haven’t had the chance to experience the mornings before, but junior soccer goalie Rafael Maciel says that “They’re keeping up.”
Next week, the off-field drills of homework and social lives will swing into full gear. But for now, it’s just the players and the practice. As one soccer coach told the athletes during workouts: “It’s so good to be alive.”