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Golden Valley football: Mental games

Grizzlies remain focused on establishing a winning attitude as season approaches

Posted: August 17, 2010 10:29 p.m.
Updated: August 18, 2010 4:55 a.m.

Golden Valley head coach Andy Campbell, center, instructs two of his players during practice at Golden Valley High School.

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It's all about laying the foundation.

That's the philosophy Golden Valley head football coach Andy Campbell has instilled in his players so far at the team's preseason camp.

He compared the team to an elaborate mansion in Canyon Country, saying the concrete foundation is already in place. Now it's time to build the mansion.

The construction begins in the trenches, where senior left guard Sean Stephan promises the offensive line will be one of the team's strongest positions.

"It's a whole new story in school history," said Stephan, who looks to be one of three senior starters on the offensive line this year.

Campbell believes the new and improved O-line will lead the way to a major bounce-back from last year's 0-10 season. The Grizzlies have never won a Foothill League game since joining five years ago.

"It's hard to shed that losing mentality, but these kids really believe they can win," Campbell said.

The idea of building a team from the bottom up began last year, when Campbell first took over as head coach and realized the team needed an attitude adjustment in order to start competing in the Foothill League.

The new mindset can be broken down into three key elements, he added: effort, attitude and toughness.

If players don't come to practice every day with those three, they can spend time with what Campbell calls the team's "licensed psychiatrist." In reality, it's a tackling dummy wearing a skirt.

When players get in trouble, they are told to run laps around the field with dummy in hand, spouting whatever excuses they may have to it. Once the excuses are out, the player is allowed to return to practice.

It's rituals like that which help make believers out of the players vying for a position on a historically sub-par program.

"I come in pedaling something that probably has never been pedaled here before," Campbell said.

Quite simply, he believes the team can start winning games in the Foothill League.

The experienced offensive line will lead for a pair of junior running backs in Jeff Coprich and Earl Johnson, who Campbell considers the two most dynamic players on offense. Coprich started as a sophomore last year and he's been splitting reps with Johnson on the first team in camp.

"These kids do not accept anything less than excellence," Campbell said.

Both backs are fully prepared to show the league why they are no longer a winless team.

"Me, personally, I hate losing," Johnson said.

The team is full of juniors and first-year starters like Johnson. Not a single defensive player on this year's team started all 10 games last season.

Campbell likes the fact that his team is "young and hungry" and is confident in the multitude of junior starters. To help make up for the lack of experience though, he's focused mainly on conditioning so far in camp.

Senior free safety Isaac Zamora has already noticed the new focus, but doesn't mind.

"We're working hard this year and everyone is fully committed," Zamora said. "I think working hard is fun."

It isn't about simply making Golden Valley competitive, Campbell said. He doesn't plan on being satisfied with a couple non-league wins this season.

"Every rep we've done has been preparing us for Foothill League play," he said.




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