By TAYLOR GRAFFT
The Liberty Hill Panthers will open their football season on August 30 against Giddings in a new stadium and on a different surface.
This offseason they packed up all the football equipment and moved a little bit further down State Highway 29. For the players, coaches, and trainers it has been a welcome change and has allowed them more freedom and convenience.
For Head Athletic Trainer Charles “Doc” Harrington, it has made his job a lot easier. He is looking forward to the upcoming season and the effects of the new field.
Harrington went to school at the University of Texas at El Paso and observed the challenges of playing on a turf field at the Sun Bowl. However, he says that the new field at Liberty Hill is better due to better technology and a more advanced surface.
“The way they do this stuff now, technology is a lot better,” he said. “We’ve played on a lot of fields that were harder than this.”
There have been questions on how the heat would affect the new turf field because turf tends to be much hotter than grass due to the ability to absorb the heat.
The players and coaches said that it was a concern at the beginning of practice, but now they have adapted to the new surface. Harrington said he doesn’t think that the heat will be a concern this season.
“I don’t think the heat can even be considered a negative,” he said. “Especially with our location. If we had put turf on the old site, then it would have been hotter on a daily basis. Over here we’re at a higher elevation and we actually get a breeze and I don’t think it’s a negative at all.”
There are also advantages in moving from grass to turf when dealing with wet weather. Grass tends to get soggy and hard to play on when it’s raining, but turf is much more manageable and less affected by the rain.
“This field will be a huge advantage,” Harrington said. “I can’t even count how many times we’ve had to go work out in the gym because of rainy weather. It would soak the old grass field so bad that if we got on it we would not only get a bunch of kids hurt with groin injuries, but we were going to destroy our field in the process. Now the only time we have to get chased off to the gym is if there’s lightening.”
The players will have to play on both turf and grass this season, but are confident that their play and style won’t change based on the surface.
Head Football Coach Jerry Vance says that they must be able to adapt regardless of the venue they’re playing at.
The field will also be available to practice on year round for the players and coaches.
“Before, no one could use the field year round because we had to get ready for next year. It was a necessity to protect the health of the field because if you have a bad field, you would have all kinds of problems—and more injuries. Now it’s a huge benefit to be able to practice and play whenever we want,” Harrington said.
The training staff at Liberty Hill pride themselves on being well prepared and being consistent in their routine. The new turf will be a bit of a learning experience for Harrington and the student trainers.
“My trainers are good kids,” he said. “We’ve played a lot of places that are tougher on you than this new turf. I tell my trainers when we are traveling to a tougher field to be on top of things and be prepared.”
The new turf will also be different to manage through the season to keep the field soft. There is a strict schedule that the maintenance crew has to follow to add new BBs to the field throughout the season.
“The first season there is always a lot of BBs,” Harrington said. “They groom the field and sweep it to mesh it into the field. That will keep it soft throughout the season. It’s a really neat process. But the field should feel the same in December as it did in July. With grass it’s different as the season progresses because the field gets harder.”
With the season opener approaching fast, the players, coaches, and trainers are all excited about the new turf and expect it to be a big advantage this upcoming season for their football team.
“I haven’t seen a negative yet,” Harrington said. “It’s just a matter of getting used to it.”