During summer practices most teams have their student-athletes learn new plays or go through a refresher course of sorts to reintroduce them to their sport.
For the Camp Verde boys' soccer team, head coach Dave Miller is having his team focus on three things; conditioning, touch and developing a love for the game.
The long-tenured head coach would proudly say during the 2013 season that he had the best-conditioned team in Division-IV and they would not stop the whole game, and he was right. But with the departure of many starting seniors and the influx of young talent, Miller is working on getting that conditioning back to snuff.
He also wants them to develop a better touch on the ball. That is something that will come along with a better-conditioned team and lastly he wants them to learn to love the game and the people they play it with. This is the time of the year to develop that passion Miller said, because wins and loses do not count right now (a common theme among many teams during the summer).
"Conditioning and touch," Miller said. "We want the guys to make good decisions about remaining in shape over the summer, but mainly the touch on the ball. And the last thing would probably be developing a love of the game. There's no pressure this time of the year, play it because you love it, you have to be dedicated but this is what it does."
As the Cowboys develop a love for the game, the underclassmen heavy team will also mature, which is what lone senior Javier Valdez said. As the maturation process progresses and their passion for soccer grows, the way they play the game will improve, according to Miller, so he is not too concerned with running plays right now or micro-managing his team.
"It's been pretty much everybody maturing on the team we only have one senior so everybody's new to the high school mentality of the game."
Sophomore John Castillo will more than likely be thrust into the high school mentality that Valdez spoke of, replacing former Cowboy Andy Woodward in the goal. While nothing is set in stone yet, Castillo guarded the net when the boys scrimmaged Mingus Union. The Marauders got one by him, but for the most part the sophomore pitcher did well stopping the ball and getting it away from him.
"I'm working on it," Castillo said. "I'm not sure on the position yet but I enjoy the goal."
One of the problems Miller and his team run into is an all-to familiar problem with high school sports in the Verde Valley, juggling practice, work and summer vacation schedules. That is why Miller will move his practice times to an empty part of the day. He wants his athletes to play multiple sports and develop into the "total package," and one way of doing that is by them playing other sports in addition to soccer to develop other muscles not used on the pitch.
"I realize that the guys do a lot of different things so I try to move my practices to a time when no one else is using that athlete," Miller said. "I think that as long as they are doing something they are actively maturing, whether they are playing basketball, whether they are playing baseball, they are actively maturing as athletes and at the end I'll be the benefactor of that. I'm more than willing to share with the off-season sports and I think the guys will do well. They're young men, still developing and I want the total package."
When they do get together for open field, Miller sees a level of excitement in his team that makes him excited to be there and coach. Typical practices average 15-16 Cowboys and helps them prepare for scrimmages that they play through the week. Whether it is against Mingus Union, Page, Chino Valley or Sedona, the Cowboys see good minutes on the field. The time helps them grow and mature into a well-oiled machine while working on a few things.
"Each game we're getting better and better, each practice everybody's getting more serious, more into the game," Valdez said, "We definitely need a little more push in some areas and we're all out of shape and we need some more push. We're missing a couple key guys, some outside defenders."
After their scrimmage with the Marauders, Miller was happy with how his team played. The Cowboys were all over the field (in a good way and a bad way) and the offense is right there. Both Mingus and Camp Verde ran into the same problem. They would have a player on a beautiful breakaway and go to pass the ball for the corner shot but there would be no one there, or they would be a half step behind. IT is early in the summer that will change. Right now Miller just cares about his student-athletes becoming soccer players and a soccer team.
"We just need to worry about shape, and not physical shape, they need their shape on the field," Miller said. "They need to watch as much soccer as they can, World Cup is here, watch and be inspired by that and they need to understand the basics of the game. If they can focus on the basics they'll be very successful. Make sure there's a triangle, make sure we're playing first and second defender, make sure we're striking the ball well and trapping into space and the basics. Then we can mature into the fancy stuff later."