Football season may not officially begin until August, but the month of July is when players' dedication to their sport is tested.
Out of school and without daily instructions from their coaches, players are tasked with creating their own workouts and getting to the weight room on their own time.
This month, Will Packard will be displaying his commitment to his game and the Prescott football program in an unconventional way.
Will, who'll be a seventh grader at Prescott Middle School in the 2019-20 school year, and his father, Dave Packard, have always enjoyed challenging themselves. So when Will inquired about going to Africa over the summer, the two set out to do more than see animals and landscape that varies from what they're accustomed to in Prescott.
Will and Dave have committed to climbing Mount Kilimanjaro July 25 - Aug. 5. Talk about getting preseason strength training in.
"Well, after probably eight days of climbing it, it'll probably make me mentally tougher for football season, which will help me go throughout the whole game," Will said when asked how his hike will prepare him for the upcoming football season.
"That was kind of my reason behind it, too," Dave said. "I knew that it would make him a little mentally tougher than he already is. He is pretty tough already."
But the Packards also have a larger goal in mind for their quest. Will and Dave have decided to use their climb as a way to raise money to replace Prescott's current football field scoreboard. As of Friday, June 28, the Packards have raised $2,900 of their $15,000 fundraising goal and will continue to accept donations on their Go Fund Me page until they're able to fund a new scoreboard along with its installation.
"Climbing Mount Kilimanjaro and playing sports teaches the value of hard work, preparation, perseverance and achieving goals," the Packards' Go Fund Me page reads. "Football and other sports provide kids a usable road map to future success in their lives."
The Packards considered raising money for three or four causes when they had the idea of attaching a fundraiser to their climb, but replacing the current scoreboard took the crown when Will and Dave reflected on its defects.
"I don't know the year of the scoreboard, but it's a pretty old scoreboard, and it doesn't function properly," Dave said. "Last year we were playing Hastings, and the Hastings coach looked at me and said, 'Is that 58 seconds left?' And I said, 'Yes'. It was embarrassing because half of the bulbs don't work."
Dave and Will have hiked together since the early years of Will's childhood, but they have yet to take on a mountain of Kilimanjaro's caliber. The fundraiser will not only help the Cardinals' football program fund a much-needed facility update, but it'll also help the Packards hold themselves accountable as they take on an atypical, offseason challenge.
"Kilimanjaro is not the most challenging mountain to climb in the world; it's doable for a 12-year-old," Dave said. "The important thing is that I wanted to be successful with it. The last thing we want to do is climb a mountain and not get to the top."
Will and Dave plan to prepare for their greatest hike yet by walking uphill for 2-3 hours while wearing 20-pound weight vests every day until they leave for Tanzania. The Packards won't be able to simulate Tanzania's altitude and weather as they walk uphill alongside the St. Croix River in Prescott, but the father and son believe they're both physically and mentally prepared for their journey.
"I'm really surprised," Dave said. "I keep checking in with Will, 'Are you sure you can do this?' And he has never really put up a 'I'm not sure'. He knows exactly what we're getting into. I keep reiterating how tricky it's going to be. There are marathon runners who come back from it saying it's the hardest thing they've ever done. On a difficulty scale of 1-10, most people say it's a seven."
But without hesitation, when asked why he's agreed to take on a 19,341-foot mountain for his cause, Will had an answer.
"One, I'm going to be using that field with the scoreboard for a lot of years, and I'd like to have a scoreboard that functions properly," Will said. "And we want to try to help out our town."
Those interested in donating to the Packards' fundraiser can do so at https://ca.gofundme.com/ktmxh-climbing-for-a-cause. The fundraiser is not affiliated with the Prescott School District, and all proceeds - with the exception of gofundme.com's fees - will go towards the replacement of the football field's current scoreboard.