Like nearly every school, Corona del Sol is heading to cooler climate for football camps in the next two weeks. Aztecs coach Tom Joseph estimated 110 kids or so will make the trek to Heber’s middle school and high school: 80-90 freshmen and sophomores followed by 30 juniors and seniors.
Joseph, for one, will sleep on his “99-cent mattress” he bought in 2010, his last year coaching at Mountain View. After 33 years, a hip replacement and a possible knee replacement to come, sleeping on the ground is among the last things he should be doing.
“You have to get outside your comfort zone,” he said. “Coaches, too. It’s good for humility.”
There’s been no shortage of that the past three years at Corona, even if it’s unnecessary. Aligned with Brophy, Desert Vista and Mountain Pointe (and Dobson) in Division I, Section IV, the Aztecs’ sectional schedule will be a mighty struggle while thinning in numbers (twice as many Mountain View kids went to camps during his decade-long tenure).
Adamant in his ways and means of making kids grow as players and people, his personality, coaching style and demand for commitment has driven kids out of the program. Some, he believes, simply weren’t interested in putting the time and effort into what is required of football these days.
He has, however, acknowledged changing his approach — if only a bit — the past few years, not only because it’s been more of a struggle at Corona than he originally thought when he took the job, but because the kids on campus have dictated as such.
There won’t be any “chick flicks” or singing “Kumbaya,” at camp, but his “old-school” approach has had to be updated along the edges.
“You take the kids who’ve bought in and do the best you can with them,” he said. “People worry about what you don’t have (in program numbers and a 10-11 record after two years) but you take what you have and try to make the best out of them.
“There’s no way I could do the same things as at Mountain View. You have to (make changes). There’s no way the same things would work. I have different priorities than I used to. I still strive for (winning), and I still want to, but I’m trying to help kids more overall.”
When Joseph visited with former Toro and BYU standout quarterback Max Hall earlier this summer, Joseph asked Hall — who led Mountain View to a 14-0 season and state title in 2003 followed by a triple-overtime title game loss in 2004 — what he remembered most about high school football.
“He said, ‘Man, I had fun,’” Joseph said. “That really felt good, that it was the first thing he said.”
There’s not much joy in hips, back and knees rebelling against sleeping on the ground. But having coached twice as long as most kids in the program have been alive, he’s still trying. Despite the low numbers, only having three starters back on each side of the ball and an unforgiving schedule, he wants to continue morphing kids into young adults.
He’s also learned the hard way that “willing” and “able” are two different things.
“You take the kids who’ve bought in and do the best you can with them,” he said. “People worry about what you don’t have, but you take what you have and try to make the best out of them.”