The idea of doing anything athletic in the midst of the oppressive heat which inundates Arizona during the summer might seem asinine to some. To others, the sky-high temperatures serve as an extra jolt of motivation to go the extra mile in preparation for their sport of-choice.
Such is the case for a litany of high school athletes in Tucson, who endure the high temperatures to get in top form before fall.
One such athlete is Canyon del Oro High School rising senior Dylan Zamorano, who plays wide receiver and cornerback for the Dorados’ football team.
Zamorano said going through non-contact summer practices and long weight room sessions is a definite challenge for players. He said that the challenges are met with open arms by everyone that toes the turf during the summer months, with coaches keeping an eye on everyone during conditioning workouts.
“We always drink a lot of water,” Zamorano said. “All the coaches are on us about water every day and all that. I usually start out with a good breakfast, mostly made of fruit. Then I go straight to work out in the gym. After the gym, I come home for a little bit, then go back to go to afternoon workouts.”
Zamorano said the team’s late afternoon workouts feature frequent water breaks and the daunting task of overcoming mental and physical obstacles associated with body temperature.
“We just push through it and it’s just a battle between body and mind, everything’s that way really,” Zamorano said. “Like [Coach Dustin Peace] says, if we just get past that barrier then you’re all good after that.”
Peace believes the summer practices are a good way to build team chemistry, with players accepting greater responsibility and building bonds over the sport they love.
“I believe that in today’s world it’s becoming rarer to have guys show up day in and day out in summer because there’s simply more things for kids to do nowadays,” Peace said. “So, for a team to be great, it takes a lot of sacrifice on players to give up some of those things to make a workout or practice. Kids might not know it but our games in the fall are won or lost on these long summer days grinding in the weight room.”
Zamorano added that the team’s work during the summer has a definite impact on their success during the season.
“I do believe that our work builds character,” he said. “Just trying to see when you’re tired, when it’s hot and you don’t want to do it, and just pushing through all that hard stuff and saying, ‘Yeah, I can do it.’ That’s what’s helped me most in life, not just in football but, but life in general.”
Zamorano believes the veteran-laden football team is in position to one-up its 7-4 record in 2018, thanks to the camaraderie forged over summer workouts.
He said the team’s shared passion to show up each and every day for offseason conditioning work has played a huge role in that bond, with each player doing whatever it takes to succeed.
“The brotherhood that we all share is really special,” Zamorano said. “We’ve been together for four years, and we all started out as little freshmen and worked our way up through those Friday night lights which are always exciting.”
Football is far from the only sport that requires an incredible buy-in from players during the summer months.
Volleyball athletes, like Ironwood Ridge High School rising senior Hannah Ford, fight through the heat of the offseason to improve their all-around game.
Ford, who will assume the co-captain role for longtime Ironwood Ridge coach Bill Lang this fall, said the summer months frequently require hours-long weight room sessions in the morning teemed with position drills during the afternoon.
“We typically do most of our work in the morning, so it’s not too hot when we’re outside,” Ford said. “But it’s definitely a factor when we’ll go out to do sprints, or to run the bleachers and do some hurdles and stuff outside. Our coaches and our team are really good about making sure that everybody stays healthy and everybody’s staying hydrated, so the heat doesn’t get to us too badly.”
Lang believes that the ability of veteran players, like Ford, to believe in his staff’s teachings is special, as it shows how committed players are to ensure their success when the season starts.
“Some players will do it because it’s asked but when they do it because they know it’s part of the commitment they make to their team and goals, I think it builds character,” Lang said. “We have a lot of players like that. It doesn’t matter if it’s volleyball, football, band, or even an internship. When kids like Hannah understand that there’s a commitment to doing something well and they’re willing to meet those expectations by giving it everything they have, they are preparing to be great at anything they choose.”
Ford actually enjoys the team’s summer conditioning drills, as they allow her to get into a routine that has worked wonders in years past.
“I think it’s really easy for athletes to get checked out and not just stay super motivated,” Ford said. “I think one thing that this summer program does for us is it’s so much hard work that we put in. If we don’t do that, who knows if we would be ready to play these super tough teams when fall comes around? I think the thing that keeps us motivated is seeing how much work we put in over the summer.”
Lang knows how difficult conditioning work can be for players, but that such hard work is a prerequisite for regular season success.
“It’s tough on high school student-athletes these days; everyone wants to compete and win,” he said. “Players that don’t get ready in the summer lose playing time and coaches that don’t have a good offseason program will lose their job when they’re not prepared against their opponents. If you can’t commit to work in the summer, it’s difficult to be ready from the start.”
Ford knows that the Nighthawks won’t have an issue preparing for their early season matches, with a team full of experienced players that are ready to compete.
“I’m just super excited, and hopefully we’re going to have a great season,” Ford said. “I think the girls are ready, and everyone’s been putting in a lot of work. I’m really, really excited to see where this team can take us this season.”