At Thursday afternoon's practice of the Longhorn boys soccer team, coach Roger Wholly loudly mouthed some well worn words of wisdom to his charges.
"Nothing great was ever achieved without enthusiasm," the first-year varsity coach shouted only seconds before the onset of what would become a spirited scrimmage.
The coach was borrowing from renowned American poet Ralph Waldo Emerson.
Although the advice was second hand, Wholly predicts the poet's urgings will ring true for the 2001 edition of the Payson High School boys soccer team.
To achieve the enthusiasm needed for athletic greatness, the three key ingredients are proper physical conditioning, good attitudes and well-conceived game plans, Wholly said.
To ensure the players are properly conditioned, Wholly and assistant coach Josh Conner spent the first week of practice which began Aug. 6 putting the athletes through a series of rugged endurance drills.
Among them was a round-trip distance run Thursday afternoon to Green Valley Park from the team's practice site at the Rumsey multipurpose field. Following the run, the players engaged in a full scrimmage that lasted more than an hour.
"If we have to go into double overtime this year, we want to have the endurance to do it," Wholly said.
In addition to proper conditioning, the coach counts quickness as a team asset.
"We have a lot of speed. That should help us," he said.
Although the players have been pushed to their physical limits, none have voiced displeasure with the rugged regime.
"They have been in pain, really feeling the burning, but there has been no complaining," the coach said. "They have excellent attitudes."
Laying the foundation
At the start of the second week of practice Monday, Wholly's plan was to begin to plug the players into the positions they can most contribute to the team cause.
Also this week, he will install the three offenses the Longhorns will showcase during the season. Offense includes the 4-4-2, 3-5-2 and 4-5-1 alignments, Wholly said. The base offense will be the 4-4-2, but when the team wants to flood the midfield, it will shift to a 3-5-2.
When the team strategy is to be in a defensive mode, it will call upon a 4-5-1 set.
"We'll adjust according to who we are playing," Wholly said.
During Thursday's scrimmage, Wholly and Conner positioned players in slots they were unaccustomed to, as evidenced by veteran Matt Gille's query to coaches, "What do I do here?"
By playing athletes out of position, Wholly reasoned, the staff can best assess the individual's strengths and weaknesses. Then, coaches can assign the athletes to the positions they'll man the remainder of the season.
Wholly would like to have athletes assigned slots by the beginning of next week, but said position shifting could occur well into the season.
Among the players who are vying for varsity starting honors are Rob Jones, Nick Sanders, Travis Snyder, Randy Perham, Andrew Karlowski, Kyle Hubbard, Michael Orozco and Skylar DeWeese. Other challengers include Mark Hillegas, Trevor LaHaye, Ryan Fanizza, Daniel Wing, Lucas Schmidt, Dan Reisdorf and Ryan Peters.
About 40 teens showed up for the first day of practice, but by the end of the week, 36 remained.
According to Wholly, the roster which will include both a jayvee and varsity team will soon be cut to 30.
"It's too hard to carry more than that because of transportation, (lack of) uniforms and things like that," the coach said.
With no designated junior varsity coach on the staff, Wholly and Conner will co-coach both teams.
"Blending (the two teams) shouldn't be too much of a problem," Wholly said. "We'll be (available) for both games since they are (played) at different times."
The staff has been bolstered recently by the addition of former PHS soccer standout Ken Holcombe, who will be serving as a volunteer assistant.
The campaign kicks off Sept.1 in a non-league showdown against Queen Creek. Game time is 11 a.m. (jayvee) and 1 p.m. (varsity) at Rumsey Park.
Regional action begins Sept. 5, also at Rumsey Park, against the Blue Ridge Yellow Jackets. On weekdays, games are played at 3:30 p.m. and 5:30 p.m. at Rumsey.
Wholly predicts the traditionally tough Yellow Jackets will be among the championship contenders in the East region. Others who could make a run at the crown are Snowflake, Show Low, Alchesay and Round Valley.
If the Longhorns can earn a playoff berth by finishing in the regional top-three, "we have the opportunity to take state," Wholly said.
The first round of the state playoffs begins Oct. 26 at Udall Park and St. Gregory's School in Tucson.
The tournament culminates with the crowning of the state champion Nov. 3 at Udall Park.