Winslow boys soccer coach Aaron Wolfe can’t recall a more blistering start to preseason practices than what his team and others across the state encountered this week. Temperatures approached 90 degrees with high humidity for the first few days and had Wolfe and his coaching colleagues keeping one eye on the thermometer and one eye on the field.

“You have to take it a little easier because of the heat. You take more water breaks and maybe not cover as much as you would otherwise,” he said.

Adjusting to the weather usually means adjusting the practice plan for most coaches, which leads some to examine whether they are making the most of the time they have with their players. Sometimes that leads to a debate over whether long single-session practices or two shorter sessions make for the most efficient use of practice time.

Double sessions are as much a part of football as kicking tees and chin straps. First-year Gardiner coach Joe White said the structure is simply more suited for young athletes who are still developing physically and mentally.

“You really have to consider the weather,” White said. “For those guys to be outside for three or four hours, with the air quality the way it’s been, that’s a lot to ask.”

This year Cony girls soccer coach Jeff Hersey switched his preseason schedule from one long session during the day to double sessions split between morning conditioning and late afternoon technical work. He’s found the change has the players more energized and alert for the afternoon sessions.

“The girls are fresher and their minds are still clear and free from exhaustion,” he said.

The key to the change working is what the players get out of the morning practice, Hersey said. So far, he is pleased with the approach the Rams have had to getting in shape for the season.

“The girls have really attacked the conditioning piece,” he said.

Messalonskee boys coach Tom Sheridan noted coaches don’t get the chance in winter and spring sports for week-long double sessions because school is in session. That, plus field availability and other considerations such as getting players into a routine, make split sessions more inviting to coaches. But he understands why some soccer and field hockey coaches are opting away from tradition.

“I do see the benefits of doing a longer evening session,” he said.

One session makes it easier for players and families to fit their schedules around practice. But there are as many organizational as traditional reasons to split practice up, White said.

“If you can install your fundamental, base offensive and defensive schemes, sometimes it helps to split those up,” White said.

Practice time on the field will always be vital so that players can get the spacing and timing of their plays down. But one advantage coaches today have over their predecessors is technology. If the heat is wearing on the players, everyone can move inside and, through increasingly-popular programs such as HUDL, use practice and game film to go over the finer points that used to be covered on the field.

“You can still get your instruction across,” he said. “Now, you’ve got your visual and you can go through some stuff.”

In other words, coaches don’t need their teams to be under the sun to learn everything under the sun.

• • •

New Waterville girls soccer coach Christine Bright observed the Purple Panthers from not far away as an assistant coach at Colby College, so she knows the task at hand.

“It’s really exciting to take on this challenge,” Bright said. “I have really big shoes to fill, but I think the girls have been receptive to my style.”

Bright, 30, took over the program in June, replacing Ian Wilson, who stepped down last March after leading the Purple Panthers to two state championships in eight years as head coach. They went 18-0 last season and won the Class B title with a dramatic 1-0 overtime win over Cape Elizabeth.

A native of Edina, Minn., Bright graduated from Middlebury College in 2007 after helping to lead the women’s soccer team to three consecutive New England Small College Athletic Conference championship appearances, winning the conference title in 2006 as a left back and tri-captain.

After college, Bright worked in sports-based youth development organizations such as America SCORES and MetroLacrosse in Boston. She joined Jennifer Holsten’s staff at Colby as a paid assistant coach in 2013, then worked as a volunteer assistant for Holsten in 2014. She is now a program director for Hardy Girls Healthy Women in Waterville.

She takes over a team that graduated eight seniors, including Kennebec Valley Athletic Conference North Player of the Year Pilar Elias, Morning Sentinel Player of the Year Lydia Roy, and standout midfielder Sarah Shoulta, who combined for 72 goals last year. The Panthers also lost veteran defenders and captains Brooke Ettinger and Morgan Tortorella.

The Purple Panthers return three seniors — goalkeeper Gabi Martin, forward Fotini Shanos and center-back Cody Veilleux — who were all key contributors to last year’s team, as well as junior midfielder Jordan Jabar. They also have a large group of sophomores who will be looking to take advantage of their first varsity opportunities.

The players and Bright got to know each other better during summer soccer, and Bright said she emphasizes communication and transparency with the players.

“I think my style and my philosophy is I always want to make sure the girls are first, that they’re learning and they understand how I’m asking them to get better,” she said.

The Panthers open their preseason at Gorham on Saturday at 11 a.m. They open the regular season at home against Nokomis on Sept. 4.

• • •

Saturday is a big day for play days in soccer and field hockey. Teams will be playing multiple scrimmages to get ready for the upcoming season.

For the third straight year, Cony High School will host a soccer play day at the CARA fields on Piggery Road. Eight boys and seven girls teams will be taking part. Most of the teams participated in the play day last year, although the Lawrence and Erskine boys have joined the list of contestants. Teams will play four 40-minute games over the course of the day, with action starting at 8 a.m. and the last games expected to start around 4 p.m., with the boys games starting on the even hours and girls on the odd hours. Games will be officiated by certified officials and athletic trainers from Maine General will be on hand. The concession stand will be open all day.

Lawrence High School girls soccer also has a play day scheduled Saturday with Maine Central Institute, Messalonskee and Skowhegan. Games start at 2 p.m. Several local Class B, C and D girls teams — including Gardiner, Hall-Dale, Madison, Mount View and Winslow — will be at Richmond High School for a play day that starts at 9 a.m.

Winslow High School field hockey will host 22 teams, most of them from the KVAC, in a round robin. Games start at 8:30 a.m. and will run all day into the mid-afternoon.

• • •

Messalonskee High School football coach Brad Bishop is excited about returning most of the backfield from the team that reached the Pine Tree Conference Class B semifinals last season, but Bishop is just as excited about a newcomer to the Eagles roster.

Senior Devin Pickett joins the Messalonskee football program this season after playing soccer in previous falls. Pickett immediately gives the Eagles a kicking threat, Bishop said.

“That’s a weapon I haven’t had in while,” Bishop said. “(Pickett) has a good leg and he’s just learning.”

Messalonskee will host Bangor for a scrimmage on Monday. The Eagles host Pine Tree Conference B rival Mt. Blue in an exhibition game on Friday.

Staff writer travis Lazarczyk contributed to this report.

Randy Whitehouse — 621-5638

Twitter: @Rawmaterial33

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