Some teams escape the heat in July and head north for football camp. Some go out of state. Some stay home.
Every high school football coach has his own method to get his team to bond before official practices begin.
“We’re going to live in the gym,” new Scottsdale Notre Dame Prep coach Mark Nolan said. “We’ll feed them during the day. We’ll pray together. We have video-game time, nap time, meetings, team meetings. We do board-game time.
“The week isn’t as much about football as it is creating that sense of community you only get as a family.”
Players will get to bring in their bedroom sets, as long as there is protection underneath to not scrape up the gym floor, Nolan said.
“We’ll build a dormitory of sorts in the gym,” Nolan said. “The cafeteria is the kitchen. There will be volunteers. Everyone pitches in.”
Nolan said he will bring in guest speakers, maybe play some videos of past Notre Dame football success, such as the 2007 and 2008 back-to-back state championship seasons.
“We’ll have hour-scheme meetings, an hour-and-a-half what I describe as team building,” Nolan said. “The guest speakers will talk about various things. There will be man lessons. Life lessons. Former players will talk at team meetings.”
Here’s a look at a cross-section of the state and what other coaches plan to do and get out of summer camp:
Gilbert Campo Verde
Coach Max Ragsdale will be taking his team to Prescott for the fourth year in a row. It’s called “Pine Summit.”
“It is awesome,” he said. “Great food. We’re by ourselves, and the players are sleeping in a bunk, not a gym floor. We go five nights, six days and we hammer them, not in an Xs and Os sense, but trying to build their mental toughness.
4:45 a.m.: Wake up.
5: Fun run, a mile and a half up and down hills.
5:30: Hills and a circuit, 20-25 hill sprints in lines of four across in cross-fit style workout with eight stations.
6:30: Group sit-ups, push-ups. Everyone on the same count. One mistake and they start over.
7: Shower, downtime, breakfast.
Noon: Lunch, shower, downtime.
2:45: Second practice.
5: Dinner, shower, downtime.
6:30: Third practice.
8:30: Shower, downtime.
9:30: Entire program meeting.
10: Individual level meetings.
10:30: Lights out.
“At every practice, there’s a competition among that team,” Ragsdale said. “For example, we break the varsity down to 10 teams and they will compete at some activity – flipping tires, driving a sled, ‘piranhas,’ tug-a-war, power ball.
“After all of these events, we add up the scores and there’s a camp champion and we keep it going on throughout the year.”
Surprise Shadow Ridge
Coach Ray Karvis takes his group to Northern Arizona in Flagstaff in mid-July with two to three practices a day.
“We will do a fun run every morning,” Karvis said. “We will work on team goals and individual goals with our goal realization program. We want the players and coaches to bond and build relationships. The most important things would include playing as a team vs. playing as individuals and adversity.”
The Brons’ varsity heads to Seligman for a three-day camp.
“What we try and do is build a lot of team chemistry through waking up early and meeting on all aspects of the game,” coach Jeston Lotts said. “We get all schemes on O, D, special teams. We even try to do a night where we have a show where the players get to put on a skit about the coaches.
“Probably the most important thing we take away from the entire trip is one night, led by the seniors, come up with goals. These goals include game goals and academic goals that the team will place inside the locker room and be graded on to see if we are reaching our goals.
“The staff at Seligman treats us very well and our boys come back down the mountain motivated and ready for some football.”
The Badgers will take July 19-22 at NAU to bond. This will be the first out-of-town camp in two years for Justin Argraves’ group.
They will practice twice daily.
“We have many kids in our program whose only opportunity to get out of Tucson might only be during camp week,” Argraves said. “During the time away, our main focus is increasing the cohesiveness and unity of our team.
“Being around your teammates 24-7 for a handful of days really allows you to witness your teammates’ true character and form relationships that might not be built within the constraints of a football field. We are also able to establish short- and long-term goals for the upcoming season that the players determine among themselves.
“This allows them to create a sense of ownership in the program. Obviously, we also use camp time to review everything we have installed during spring and summer, while having the ability to clean everything up before the first day of official practice. It’s also nice to beat the 110-degree heat for a while.”
Coach Larry Fetkenhier will lead his team in Snowflake for seven reasons:
“Team bonding, learn to like one another, learn more about each other,” Fetkenhier said. “Two, cooler weather; three, no distractions; four, we control the day’s activities; five, do activities allowing players to have fun together; six, get a break from the control of social media; seven, great coaching staff and players bonding.”
Tucson Catalina Foothills
The Falcons will be at NAU, where they will stay in a dorm, eat together, and do work for a few days with no outside distractions, coach Jeff Scurran said.
“We try to install our base O and D and give everyone a chance to learn the system without competing for a position and learn how to communicate with each other efficiently, which is a key time for me,” Scurran said. “Since we run our normal systems in passing league, we feel like we’re already ahead.
“Since we’re at 7,000 feet, we get some excellent conditioning work done and sleep well at night in the cooler air.
“Fake team building activities are not my style, but after three days of constantly working together, our leaders emerge, everyone gets a chance to interact with everyone else, and we come back knowing the base assignments.”
The Knights take to Heber Mogollon, July 13-18, practicing four times a day.
“Our goal at camp isn’t as much about football as it is about coming together as a team,” coach Eddy Zubey said. “We work hard on our discipline as individuals, as well as a team. All of our JV and varsity players go and we open it up to any incoming freshmen who would like to go.”
Zubey said between 120 to 140 players normally go for a week of activities that go like this:
5:30 a.m.: Dawn workout.
8:30: Offense chalk talk.
9: Offense workout.
11:30: Team competition.
Noon: Lunch, nap.
2:30: Defense chalk talk.
3: Defense workout.
4:30: Special teams.
5: ‘Knight’ hill run.
5:30: Dinner, rest.
7:30: 7 on 7 for skills, line workout.
9: Snack bar.
9:30: Clean up.
10:15: Lights out.
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Coach Tommy Brittain said that his players head to a parent’s cabin in Heber for a few days.
“We call it ‘Leadership Camp,’ and take only returning juniors and seniors,” Brittain said. “There is very little football involved.
“We swim across a lake, eat a pig that we roast all day and get sunburned.
“The purpose of the camp is to build team unity and promote a spirit of leadership. We have fireside sessions in the evening in which each player must listen to constructive criticism from coaches and edifying praise from teammates.
“The dads provide the meals and the boys have fun just being boys on a football team. No cellphones allowed.”
It went to a wilderness camp at Big Lake for four days. Next up is the beach in San Clemente, Calif.
“Things we want to accomplish are team building, attitude development and positive memories,” coach Paul Moro said.
Since his days at Cave Creek Cactus Shadows, coach Greg Davis has taken teams to San Ysidro High in the San Diego area, where he was once the head coach.
“We stay in the gym,” he said. “I look for us to walk away with a stronger team bond, from both the player-player relationships and the player-coach relationships. We also use that camp as the opportunity to set individual and team goals. We watch a ton of practice film and start special team installs that are sometimes overlooked in the summer months.
“We have some fun events that we do. The most fun events are the talent show and Wiffle ball tournament.”
Phoenix Northwest Christian
The Crusaders will use the last four days of the month to bond at NAU.
“Most important thing from camp is making sure we are all on the same page when we come back on the offensive and defensive schemes,” coach Dave Inness said. “We’ll be moving some kids around to make sure we are set with our backups especially on the offensive and defensive lines. Inside linebackers is another key thing at camp. Who will win the job next to Tanner Van Hofwegen?
“We’re going to spend more time on special teams in camp to make sure we are ready to go once we get back to the Valley. With 16 starters back, we are looking to have a majority of our offense and defense base stuff in and ready to roll.”
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