Utes may forego traditional Halloween dress-up to focus on practice

— Chris Ayers

Halloween brings out rituals and traditions for all every year. These traditions can range from dressing up to handing out candy and, sometimes, to pulling off pranks. For Utah, there is another annual tradition — practice in full costume.
“It’s kind of a nice way to just calm down and remember that we do have fun,” said senior Sarah Duncan.
The Halloween practice is something most of the team looks forwards to. The team dresses in costumes, sometimes in pairs, and goofs around with a ball, performing drills or even playing a short scrimmage. This year, the costume practice is being reconsidered so the team can focus on getting the season back on track.
“We haven’t heard talk about it yet,” Duncan said. “If we do, we’ll definitely train afterwards.”
The tradition of the Halloween practice has been going on longer than Rich Manning has been head coach. When he first encountered it, he had no idea what to think. It was the week before the BYU game in the first season of Manning’s head coaching career at Utah and the Utes were in need of a win to leapfrog the Cougars for first place and clinch the Mountain West Conference.
“I came out for practice and everyone is in costumes,” Manning said. “I had no idea, no one told me anything. I’m like, ‘Oh my God, we are trying to win the championship, what’s going on here? Are you guys crazy?’”
Manning was upset because he wanted his team to be preparing and focusing on the big game at hand. The seniors let him know it was a tradition and it was something they valued.
After Manning’s first exposure to the tradition, he didn’t know if he wanted it to continue. Due to how late the holiday fell on the schedule, he had no choice but to let it continue.
“This is a really stressful time of the year for the team,” Manning said. “I think it helps relax everybody and brings it back home.”
Duncan is a big fan of dressing up for practice — she and fellow senior Jill Robison dressed up as a gorilla and a banana last season for the annual practice.
“Usually my tradition is to think of a costume the night of,” Duncan said. “I’ve been a swimmer and a derby girl.”
Since the team has been struggling lately, Manning is unsure if he will allow the themed practice this year. He would rethink it if the squad were in better shape.
“Not sure, not sure,” Manning said. “The last few weeks might have put it on the back burner. That’s something I’ll take up with the leadership group. If we feel like it’s the right thing to do, we’ll do it. If not, we’ll have a post-Halloween party.”
The Utes’ morale is a little hurt from last weekend’s pair of losses. The costume practice is a way of bringing up the morale, but what would really brighten the team’s spirit is gaining some wins this coming weekend against Arizona and Arizona State.
Manning was extremely disappointed after his side’s last showing. Because of that, he wanted to go back to the drawing board this week in practice and figure out what went wrong.
“Sunday was rock bottom,” Manning said. “We have not laid an egg like that all year, probably not in two years.”
After reevaluating the squad’s situation, he has determined that the defense needs to step up. A key to winning for Manning is to have more shutouts throughout conference play. So far, Utah only has one clean sheet.
The Utes will take on Arizona Friday afternoon at 1 p.m. MT at Ute Field.
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