New Ada head coach Brad O'Steen was late to the Cougar football party so any time he sees progress with his team it's a good thing.
And after a four-day mini-camp with pads, O'Steel feels like the Cougars are heading in the right direction.
"From Day 1 to Day 4, we had a big improvement," O'Steen told The Ada News after the final day of camp Thursday morning.
"I'm very pleased with our improvement. Day 1 was a little rough. Kids were wide-eyed, trying to figure things out," he explained. "The second day we had a really good day and the third day we kind of drug just a little bit. Today we had another good day."
The Cougars are mostly young and inexperienced heading into the fall, but O'Steen said nearly every player has shown a great attitude and is working hard to get better.
"One of the big positive things is our kids really want to be successful. They want to please you as a coach and I think they want to represent Ada the way Ada should be represented," he said.
O'Steen challenged his team to be more physical throughout the mini-camp and that challenge was accepted.
"From Day 1 to Day 4 the difference in physicality was daylight and dark. We got a lot more physical. We're learning to have some emotion and we're learning to have some intensity," he said.
During a scrimmage-like portion of Thursday's practice, there was a penalty for coming up short. If the offense failed to get a first down, players had to drop down and do 10 pushups. If the offense made a first down, the defense was caught doing the extra pushups.
"It puts pressure on them because guess what? If you can't handle that pressure and you get to Friday nights and the stands are full and everything's going chaotic what are you going to do? You have to prepare that mind," O'Steen said. "We have to develop the mindset of the way Ada Cougar football needs to be played."
O'Steen told his players to emphasize the small things that will make a big difference.
During one point in the scrimmage, one of his left tackles took a first step toward the outside and that allowed a defender quick access to the quarterback. Just a simple first step toward the inside might have resulted in a big offensive play.
"We had a receiver wide open. That's a little thing. A mental thing," he said. "We're always telling them 'Don't be beat before the ball snaps and don't be beat on your first step.'"
O'Steen has tried to keep his group from making football more difficult than it should be.
"This game's not hard and I think a lot of people make it really hard. The team that tackles the best and block the best usually wins," he said. "We don't want to make it too complicated, but we need to be effective and efficient. It all comes back to fundamentals and we're a little behind."
The Cougars now have 12 days of Summer Pride — scheduled Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. — before diving into two-a-day workouts on Aug. 9. O'Steen said Summer Pride is a critical time for his players.
"The big thing between now and two-a-days is we need to get them in great shape. We have to get them in shape and get them stronger," he said.
Numbers are down for the Ada football team heading into Summer Pride, even with the addition of a solid group of freshmen. But O'Steen is hopeful he can add some quality players that can provide much-needed depth before or right after school starts.
"We really believe there are some kids that aren't out here right now that can really help us. All I ask is for them to try it out and give me a chance," he said.
There will be seven days of two-a-day practices from Aug. 9-Aug. 17. The Cougars' annual Media Day is set for Aug. 14. The first scrimmage of the preseason in tentatively set for Aug. 20.