For most high school students, when school lets out in May for summer vacation, it is exactly that, a vacation. But for athletes, there is no off season.
The Socorro Warriors football team is gearing up for the upcoming 2018 season. Training camp began June 11. Varsity Coach Damien Ocampo and Junior Varsity Coach Jared Marquez told The Chieftain they are both excited to have their players back to practice and ready for the upcoming season.
“We expect to fight hard this year,” Ocampo said. “When other teams see Socorro on their schedule, they should always expect a dogfight. I have confidence we’ll be in the playoffs this year.”
A long time Socorro native and father of four, Ocampo runs the local State Farm insurance agency. He has coached the football team off and on for 15 years, and also volunteers as a coach for various little league groups.
Coach Jared Marquez is a former player under Ocampo, and part of the 2009 team that lost the state championship to Lovington High School. A 2011 graduate and current history teacher at the school, Marquez believes in supporting every student the same way coach Ocampo supported him.
“We do this for the kids,” Marquez said. “The time and effort every coach puts in is focused on teaching.”
Marquez left the football program as a player seven years ago. An entrepreneur like his former coach, Marquez recently started his own shaved ice business here in Socorro. To this day, he still refers to Ocampo as coach.
“He’ll always be my coach, no matter what. I don’t know what else I’d call him,” he said.
Due to strict rules implemented by the NMAA, the first month of practice is restricted to basic weight lifting. In July, the team focuses on “The X’s and O’s, as well as character development,” Ocampo said.
It is not until August that the team will participate in full contact drills with pads.
“It’s different from the past,” Ocampo said. “The new rules hold coaches and players accountable to make sure the kids are taught the proper techniques of tackling and keeping the game safe.”
Marquez added, “The main goal of these summer practices is character building. Getting the kids involved with their team as well as the community is our main priority.”
The Socorro Warriors have been in the 4-A division over the past few years, but will be classified as 3-A for the upcoming season.
According to Ocampo the reclassification was complicated.
“It’s a complicated process. You’d have to know the ins and outs of New Mexico State Athletics,” he said. “But no matter what class we’re in, our team will be competitive in every game.”
Ocampo is excited about this coming season, but when pressed didn’t want to single out any one player as the best.
“As far as our players go, in particular our seniors, we don’t have an average player on the team,” he said. “Every individual is above average and has a chance to make all-state. Our job is to push them to get there.”
Marquez was in agreement.
“I know how much better coach Ocampo makes everyone, and I try to do the same thing with the kids I coach,” Marquez said.
The Socorro Warriors will be a team to watch out for when the State Championships come around this winter.
Will they be able to secure a state title in 2018? That is the goal of coach Ocampo and coach Marquez. The town is certainly behind them.