TURLOCK -- Football success at Pitman High starts with the weights.
It's not about how much the Pride players lift, or even how much they can bench, because a lot of schools, even those with non-winning programs, may be able to match them pound-for-pound.
No, at Pitman it's about when players lift.
"It's a new school so we had to build tradition from the group up," said coach Brandon Harris. "One thing we do is that our kids lift weights at 6:30 a.m., year-round, and that's a big deal around here."
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For decades, Temple University basketball coach John Chaney would run 6:30 a.m. practices, and on his way to the gym would buy donuts for the media -- just in case they came. On most mornings, the donuts would end up uneaten and in the training room.
"Nothing catastrophic has happened in anybody's lives by 6:30 a.m.," Harris said. "They show up fresh and focused."
In the six seasons since Pitman began putting seniors on the field, the Pride has posted a 26-8 record in the Central California Conference and has gone 47-26-1 overall.
And most amazing about that span is that Pitman's home record is 0-0. They play their "home" games on enemy territory at Turlock High. In fact, they'll be the first team to use the new artificial turf at Joe Debely Stadium when they host Modesto High on Friday.
"It just kind of worked out where we're home and Turlock is on the road that night," Harris said. "It's their field and we realize that. We just borrow it five Friday nights a year."
Even when Pitman is the "home" team at Turlock High, it's not like their hosts roll out the red carpet and buffet table.
"We've been on the road for every game in school history," Harris said. "So we've never dressed in a locker room that had men's urinals. We've been in the girls' locker room every game we've ever played."
Lacking that proper bonding Friday night space, Harris established a Thursday night team tradition.
Each Thursday, the team meets for a meal, supplied by parents, and holds team meetings that might include skits and players discussing goals for the following night's game.
Above that, Harris is counting on the success the program enjoyed in its early years to continue to reap benefits.
"We're starting to get guys who have graduated from Pitman coming back to coach," Harris said. "We already have five of those guys back in the program."
Bee staff writer Brian VanderBeek can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 578-2300.