Passing leagues like Myrtle Beach's Fourth of July Shootout on Thursday night are certainly a benefit to participating teams, but which positions get the most from the tournament-style events depends mainly on need, according to area high school football coaches.
Some say it benefits quarterbacks and receivers most, while others think it gives defensive players an important early primer.
Teams are allowed to participate in 10 passing leagues over the summer, and they try to squeeze in as many games as possible during each of them, Myrtle Beach coach Mickey Wilson said.
"With so many reps you get to learn all your coverages. We've got a lot of young kids playing in the secondary and those reps are so valuable," Wilson said.
Wilson said the drills give coaches a chance to see what new defensive backs can do, how much they have progressed and time to try them at different spots in the secondary.
Myrtle Beach senior quarterback Everett Golson is participating in his fifth summer of passing leagues and, even though the Seahawks return most of their receivers from last season's Class AAA state runner-up team, there is plenty to benefit from at these events. The passing league is a good opportunity to help Golson and backup quarterback Mitch Campbell work on timing and chemistry, Wilson said.
"The biggest thing is [Golson's] been in those passing leagues since eighth grade. Not a whole lot he hasn't seen or been through in passing leagues," Wilson said.
Conway coach Chuck Jordan also cited Golson - who will be the starter for the fourth straight season and is bound for North Carolina - when discussing how important passing leagues will be for Tigers passer Mykal Moody, who started under center for Conway last season as a freshman.
"The more snaps you get at QB, the better you are going be," Jordan said. "[Golson's] gotten so many snaps. The more snaps you get, the more the game slows down for you."
Like Wilson, Jordan felt like defensive backs can benefit greatly from the passing leagues.
"I've always felt like defensively it's hard to put kids in those kinds of situations in practice." Jordan said. "In a ballgame you aren't going to get in a lot of those situations. It puts kids in positions where they are really exposed."
Carolina Forest coach Drew Hummel said that while football at its core is still about blocking and tackling, passing leagues are important ways to get players to see different schemes. Hummel's quarterback, junior Robert Gray, is preparing for his first full season as a starter.
"Gray did a great job as a sophomore. He's progressing nicely," Hummel said. "We're looking for him to get better and quicker on his reads. We want to cut down the interceptions and get the completion percentage up. It's a natural procession for a quarterback, and it helps him get more confidence."
Passing leagues are also a good way for teams to face quality competition before the season begins, Hummel said.
Myrtle Beach has faced plenty of competition already, including a victory in a passing league sponsored by the NFL's Carolina Panthers that earned the Seahawks an invitation to the NFL's national tournament later this month.
The Seahawks have decided to decline the spot in the event, because the coaches and captains had concerns about teammates being left out of the competition and having other players forced to play out of position. Teams were allowed to take 24 players and six coaches to the Charlotte, N.C., event, but would have been limited to 12 players and two coaches in the national tournament.
Myrtle Beach's starters do not typically play on both sides of the ball, so players would be playing unfamiliar positions and key members of the team would have to be excluded.
"That shows how much they care about one another. They didn't want anybody to be left behind," Wilson said.
Wilson said his coaches and captains felt they would be able to get enough work done this summer without making the trip short-handed, and even though winning summer tournaments is nice, the reason for participating is to get players ready for the season.
"The biggest thing we try to do is keep things in perspective. It's a time to practice. Our goal is to get better and get ready for Friday night," Wilson said.