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Prep football: A change of heart

Grizzlies are ratcheting up the intensity in camp for new head coach Fisher

Posted: August 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.
Updated: August 19, 2011 1:55 a.m.

The 2011 Golden Valley football team is adjusting to the departure of former head coach Andy Campbell and the hiring of new head coach Robert Fisher, which became official just last week. The Grizzlies are responding with an intense training camp.

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Several months worth of meetings, workouts and passing camps with one coach.

Fall camp with another.

That’s the situation facing the players on the field for Golden Valley football practice.

The challenge for new head coach Robert Fisher, who was officially named to the position on Aug. 11, is continuing to incorporate what the team has worked on all offseason.

Fisher does have an advantage, though. The majority of the 18 seniors on the team this year were the same group he coached three years ago as head coach of the freshman team.

“You feel like you have that connection, like you know what to expect,” said Christian Lozano, a senior wide receiver.

The built-in trust may come in handy for the new head coach, who took over for Andy Campbell, who resigned on Aug. 1.

“A lot of that ownership is up to them,” Fisher said. “We as coaches can’t control everything, so we have to count on some of those guys to teach the other kids.”

The reliance on the seniors has become especially urgent after a few juniors left the team in recent weeks.

Only the seniors have worked with Fisher as a head coach before. Others are still adjusting.

Of the players that left, at least one has changed his mind and returned to practice with others possibly on the way.

“They put in all this time, all this effort in for a coach that’s no longer here, and they feel abandoned,” Fisher said. “Adversity-wise, they have to stick together and bond to be able to move forward and deal with it as a team.”

Given the unique situation this season, coaches have decided to make adversity the theme of camp.

Every day, players are put in new, adverse situations and asked to deal with them on the spot. This week, for example, members of the United States Marine Corps were invited to practice to set up a combat training course for players. The idea is to create friendly competition and build team unity while learning bigger lessons on adversity.

The Marines deal with adversity on a life-and-death scale, Fisher explained, and that should put football in perspective.

Players are also put in day-to-day “adversity training,” where they are given game-like scenarios without warning and given one play to execute them.

It could be the middle of 7-on-7 drills and the whistle will blow. Coaches would call for the first-string offense and defense to assemble.

“Ball’s out, 3rd-and-12. Go,” Fisher said as one situational example. The team that loses the drill has to do extra push-ups.

“He’s changed a lot since we were freshmen,” joked senior linebacker Brett Melton.

The biggest difference he and the rest of the seniors have noticed is the heightened level of intensity at practice.

Players are held accountable every step of the way.

“They make it where it’s a competition in everything we do,” Melton said. “Everything’s real high-intensity.”

While the attitude is different, everything else is mostly the same.

Fisher doesn’t plan on making any wholesale schematic changes and is moving forward with previously planned preseason activities.

So far, the seniors appear to have bought in.

It’s up to them to make sure everyone else follows.

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