BENNINGTON >> While football got an earlier start, Thursday was the first day in Vermont for boys soccer, girls soccer, field hockey and cross-country.
But with summer leagues, clubs and pickup games going on throughout the summer months, coaches such as Mount Anthony boys soccer coach Mike Molloy and Mount Anthony girls soccer coach Mark Boudreau have a head start on a season that begins in two weeks.
"A lot of the kids played club in the spring and [the Berkshire] Ajax in the summer," said Molloy, who is entering his eighth season leading the Patriots. "I think they push themselves more, demanding more things. This year we went for quality instead of quantity."
A handful of players, especially some of the freshmen and sophomores, competed for the Ajax this summer in a U16 capacity. The team played in the Nordic Cup near Burlington with Molloy as an assistant coach.
The sub-varsity players also had technical sessions on Tuesdays and all players could participate in pickup games on Thursdays.
"We brought in some of the alumni to help, disperse them throughout all the teams," Molloy said. "They became captain of the teams and got the kids to come out, we had more than 30 just about every week."
Molloy said the work in the spring and summer allow him to not start from scratch when tryouts and fall practice begin.
"One of the keys for us, as we've gotten going, there's not a huge drop off in anyone here, no one stands out like they don't belong, which is nice," Molloy said. "The kids know there's expectations for what you have to do to get ready and kids who didn't don't even bother trying out."
On the girls side, a handful of players participate in the Ajax or Elite FC, but even without that, Boudreau, going into his fifth season at the helm of the Patriots, said he does soccer activities every day during the summer and the players can do it if they want to.
"None of it is mandatory, but I believe there's nothing you can do in soccer to make yourself any better other than touching the ball," Boudreau said. "If the first day [touching a ball] is at tryouts, then you're behind everyone else."
Many of the players also participate in a summer league in Bennington and Boudreau said it is open to everyone, even sometimes middle school players will play.
"I can see a lot of the younger players play with the girls from the higher levels and that lets them shine a little bit and I can see the potential," Boudreau said. "The most valuable thing is seeing the younger players. That's why I have everyone show up to varsity tryouts because you want to have gone through [the tryouts]."
All the work in the offseason is especially important in the girls program, where nearly 60 players were trying out on Thursday.
"This is going to be the toughest year yet in terms of forming teams and I have a lot of solid kids, so it's going to be tough. But it's a nice problem to have," Boudreau said.