While in the midst of a difficult season, like the one Desert Vista football went through in 2013, the focus is on that day.
It’s all about trying to win that day’s practice, attempting to keep dissension out of the locker room, and finding a way to turn things around before the next game.
The Thunder did a good of keeping the season respectable despite going 4-6 in 2013 after winning 32 games in the previous three seasons.
The real work, however, began after the season for coach Dan Hinds. He had to take a hard look at the program, himself, how things were being done and what led to the struggles just two seasons after winning the state title.
“I really took a look at what we were doing and what led to the struggles,” he said. “I took a look at what I did personally and how I could have done things differently. I met with some people I trust and we tried to take a look at what happened and how we could shake things up and do a few things different.”
The results led to what Hinds, who is entering his 13th season as the Thunder’s head coach, believes was a great offseason heading into Monday’s first mandatory practice of training camp in preparation for the season opener Aug. 29 at home against Basha.
“We had a bit of a head start to the offseason compared to last year because everyone bought into the program early and it led to a lot of no-nonsense hard work,” Hinds said. “The spring went well, but we did have to do some catch-up because we had some guys running track and playing baseball and lacrosse.
“Then we kind of found ourselves during the 7-on-7 season passing leagues, and we had a fantastic camp.”
The Thunder spent a week in Snowflake installing some new schemes on both sides of the ball, but also did all of the bonding needed to help correct last year’s difficulties and also elected captains — senior linebacker Saxon McDonald, senior running back T.J. Roberts, junior offensive lineman Adrian Perez and senior lineman Andrew McNair — for the season.
“Camp was great,” Roberts said. “We came together. The team is starting to look really good and everyone is getting more confident.”
The key now will be getting the positive vibes to roll over into the next four weeks of practice. They will start out in helmets the first few days, add shoulder pads later in the week and then can go to full pads on Day Six.
“We don’t do anything different than most teams — we will get after it,” Hinds said. “The kids have created momentum and we need to keep it going. Coach C (Strength coach Doug Christofis) is excited to get them back in the weight room and get his hands back on them.
“We are ready to get it turned around.”
The Thunder had nearly all senior starters a year ago but have several contributors coming back such as quarterback Alex Farina and Cade van Raaphorst, who is moving to linebacker after starting last season at quarterback.
The starting 22 and depth chart will have plenty of new names, but that was the case in 2010 as well when the Thunder won 10 games a year after going 2-8.
“We’ve seen it happen before and we are hoping it can happen again,” Hinds said. “This is a good group to be around. Every year is different as new leaders step in and personalities develop. They’ve bought in and that’s what we needed to get it started.”
•Contact writer: (480) 898-7915 or JSkoda@ahwatukee.com. Follow him on Twitter @JSkodaAFN.