Welcome to Hell

It’s 8:40 on a Thursday morning. Many of the students in second period Economics have just rolled out of bed to attend their first class of the day. But a handful of students have already been through a day’s worth of pain. And they are letting everyone know it. The first to share their pain is Brady White. “Can someone massage my calf?” he asks while limping toward his desk. Next to come is Jordan Bergman. He enters the room announcing to no one in particular, “I was still sweating when I got out of the shower.” No one reacts to the complaints of White and Bergman. The class is aware that this is boys soccer team tryout week, better known around the school as Hell Week. One person in the room is more aware of that fact than others. Chad Zmolek, economics teacher and boys soccer coach, smiles knowingly as his players complain. The leader of Hell Week, Zmolek is playing the role of devil even outside of practice. “I have some coffee brewing right now,” he says, smiling as class begins. “And here is a little pop quiz for you to take.” Hell Week has been a staple of boys soccer at AHS since Zmolek became head coach in 2000. The week is a full frontal assault on the physical and mental mettle of each player as they are forced through a series of rigorous training tactics. Players brace themselves all winter for the onslaught of sprints, push-ups, sit-ups, and even exercise-induced vomiting that comes with the start of practice. “No one gets injured…just really hurt,” Zmolek said. “The whole point is getting experience in pushing yourself. I can’t wait for it to happen. I’ve got to make it happen.” Poor weather conditions have forced Zmolek to revise some of his workouts for the week, including the annual sprint workout at Gateway Hill. But that does not mean this year’s season will be any easier. “It’s been all at once in (in previous years), but it might be more frequent this year,” Zmolek said of the tough workouts. So is this week still hell? “It’s more like purgatory,” Zmolek said. In that spirit, Zmolek has been keeping the player’s guessing all week. Thursday morning’s tough workout was followed by an easy scrimmage that afternoon. Friday morning’s practice was intended to be easy, but that changed with the tardiness of some players. The planned workout of sprint relays concludes at 7:00, and the team forms a circle in anticipation of post-practice stretching. Then Zmolek steps in. “I have some good news, and I have some bad news. What do you want to hear first?” After a week of hell, the team is unanimous in its decision. “Bad news,” they say. “You have foot fires and push-ups for the next twenty minutes,” Zmolek says. “The good news is you would have been done by now.” And Hell Week continues.