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A man goes through many rites of passage.
Each is remarkable in its own way.
His first day of school. First fistfight. First date. Graduation.
Some are more pronounced than others.
Marriage. Birth. Death of a loved one.
To this mix I’d like to add another: Two-a-days or double sessions.
Those terms refer to the practice sessions that high school footballers endure en route to the start of the season.
Now, before you start rolling your eyes, I’m not trying to equate football practice with something like getting married.
As an aside: I’ll never forget my wedding day. Ashen gray, I sweated through my suit, shaking all the while, like a dog passing peach pits.
It was a rite of passage, if you’ll excuse the phraseology.
Was it more important than my experience with high school double sessions? Of course.
Anyone who has been through them knows that double sessions make a profound impact on a guy’s life.
As does military boot camp. Are double sessions more grueling than boot camp?
No, of course not. Double sessions are for preparing you to play football. Boot camp is for preparing you to kill bad guys before they get you.
But, there are certainly some similarities.
For starters, you get yelled at a lot during both boot camp and double sessions.
And the guys doing that yelling are the big, menacing types.
You also do a lot of running. And sweating. And swearing.
You get to do seemingly senseless things in both. During doubles it’s “up-downs,” where you run in place, hit the turf on your belly, bounce up and continue running in place.
In the Army, it’s crawling under 18-inch high barbed wire while some lunatic asylum escapee fires a machine gun over your head.
There are differences, too.
The good thing about double sessions is that you get to go home each night to your air conditioned comfort.
At boot camp, you get to go back to an unconditioned barracks bay that you share with 30 other guys.
That’s if you’re lucky. More often than not, you’re pulling fire guard or out on some bivouac, sleeping amidst nature’s bounty.
Another big difference is in the food.
Frankly, during double sessions, you are on your own. The (Burger) King and (Dairy) Queen all beckon you to kneel before them and partake of their goodness.
In boot camp you subsist on a diet of MREs or mess hall chow.
Army mess halls are notorious for taking wondrous foods and making them both unrecognizable and indigestible.
And there are no alternatives. It’s not as though you can slip away and visit the aforementioned royalty.
Still, double sessions afford those who participate in them the opportunity to bond. What’s the old saying? Ah, yes, “Misery loves company.”
Same as in the Army. You see, the thinking goes something along these lines. If you make things miserable enough for a group of guys, they will naturally form into a cohesive unit.
Once that is accomplished, that unit will do the things that the one in charge wants it to do.
This approach does not work with the fairer sex. You see, if you take a bunch of women and make things miserable enough, they will, indeed, form a bond.
Then, as a pack, they will track down the one who is making things miserable for them and kill him.
That is why there is no such thing as double sessions in volleyball. It’s not a matter of dedication, opportunity or desire.
It’s a matter of life and death.
But, there is a reward for the guys who endure double sessions.
For starters, you get to wear that accomplishment as a mantle at the start of the school year. While no girl is going to swoon over the fact that you lasted through doubles (see previous entry re: girls and misery), your guy buddies will think you’re pretty cool.
They’ll still think you’re pretty cool, even at your 30th high school reunion.
You know those stories that you’re yukking it up over during double sessions? Well, you’re doomed to repeat those stories every time you get together, for all of eternity.
It’s part of growing up.
Indeed, it is a rite of passage in this thing we call life.