The auxiliary gym inside Kelly Walsh High School teemed with energy on Monday morning. Approximately 115 students went through multiple stations, entering in information and grabbing equipment, all with their eyes on playing football. New Trojans head coach Aaron Makelky circulated in the gym to ensure all were where they were supposed to go and sharing his energy with them.
Some didn’t need that transfer of energy. They were just excited to get one step closer to the field after a turbulent nine-month absence.
The 2018 Trojans dealt with a constant stream of injuries that saw their Super 25 running back sidelined and their third-string quarterback finishing the season under center. Frustrating losses followed, including lopsided defeats to rival Natrona County. Then came the silent departure of former head coach Jon Vance. Two months later Makelky accepted the position.
Kelly Walsh’s new coaching staff, half of which consists of old staff members, was encouraged by Monday’s first-practice enthusiasm. And those picking up their helmets were grateful to simply be back for another chance.
“It’s a huge change and I’m looking forward to leaving what happens in the past and to have a great season,” senior Fletcher Parrish said.
Added senior Chance Burton: “We’re built differently. We’re not the same team.”
Neither Parrish nor Burton thought they got enough sleep the night before. Burton said he couldn’t sleep at all. Both showed up at least 30 minutes early to Monday’s practice after having waited nine months to return to the field.
‘Built Differently’ is the motto these Trojans have adopted. It’s their cornerstone hashtag on Twitter as well as the chant they break the huddle with at the conclusion of practice.
Makelky, who worked 8 hours on Sunday and woke up especially early while his family is out of town, went through how this program will be different, ranging from yoga to the circulated Trojan Football Culture Playbook. The latter stressed ‘Service over Self’ and positive talk among each other and coaches. There’s also a stress on accountability, earning helmet stickers and recovering quickly from mistakes. There’s also an item about not mentioning “black & orange team or trophies.”
“New coaches have been great and everyone’s excited,” Parrish said. “There’s no bickering back and forth, it’s all everybody going in the same direction so it’s easy to be supportive and excited.”