The football didn’t stop for Lakeland Union High School as the football team held a youth camp for grades second through eight on Monday and Tuesday this week.
The camp was held at LUHS’s River Valley Bank Field. The campers were treated to two three-hour sessions — one day on defense and one on offense.
Teaching the campers were students of the Lakeland football team as well as the coaches. Together they teamed up to lead a camp full of learning, experience and most importantly fun.
Junior Erik Albertus summed up why Lakeland runs these camps.
“Biggest reason coaching-wise is trying to get them all used to the camp, used to our plays, getting them all started from a younger time so when they’re in high school they’re ready to go,” Albertus said.
Monday was all about the defense. The big thing the Lakeland football team wanted to emphasize was safety — how to safely tackle and safely play defense.
The campers learned the proper form. With Lakeland football players acting as “dummies,” the coaches showed the proper form. They introduced to the campers tackling and wrapping around your opponent tightly, like a boa constrictor.
“The importance of these camps is three-fold,”?Lakeland football coach Dan Barutha explained. “First, we want to create interest and excitement in football in the Lakeland community for the players who are going into the younger grades where flag and Pop Warner run.”
Once the campers were introduced to how to tackle, they were shown how to approach the opponent. The key there was to pretend to “stalk your prey,” before making the tackle. Keeping one’s eyes up was an emphasis.
After the kids were shown how to properly and safely tackle, multiple tackling stations were set up. One station had them strip or knock the football out, trying to force a fumble.
Then the campers went to a station where they learned how to tag team for a tackle. The Lakeland football team really wanted them to stay shoulder-to-shoulder to get the best results as they tackled bags.
“We want to create relationships with these players as high school coaches so once they get into our football pipeline, they know us, we know them, and they look forward to playing on Friday nights,” Barutha said.
The final tackling station was hitting a bag which moved like a wheel. Football players would roll it out and campers learned to hit it properly with the right technique. It was one of the fun parts of the day.
But there is more to defense than just tackling. The next part of the day saw four different stations of different football positions: defensive backs, linemen, outside and inside linebacker.
Defensive backs learned footwork and running. It was imperative they learn how to move properly, so they could learn the best way to cover.
The linemen station was all about proper stance and form. They were taught how to lunge with your hands to hit the target.
“Working the kids is great,” Barutha said. “We always split up groups by age levels so we can tailor instruction to those specific age and grade levels.”
Inside linebackers hit the tackling wheel again. They were also shown how to properly bullrush an opponent as well.
Outside linebackers also used tackling dummies and were taught when to know how to rush or drop back for a pass. The highlight of this station was picking up fumbles and running with them.
The final drills they did revolved around three areas. The first one the campers were taught how to properly recover and pick up a fumble, diving on the ground. Then they went and learned the art of an interception, working on the tip drill.
Finally, they used the tackle wheel once more and got to do a little more hitting, sometimes going left and other times going right.
Wrapping up the day was a punt, pass and kick relay race. There were teams of three with football players leading the campers. The whole team had to kick the ball, punt it, pass it and run it in. The fastest team to get through the entire relay was the winner.
With the first day concluded, campers were treated to a T-shirt and freeze pops. It was the perfect way to end a defensive day.
“We get enjoyment out of it as coaches and our numerous high school players make great connections with the youth who look up to them,” Barutha said.
Offense started with learning how to snap, which led to catching the ball and finally hanging onto the ball as other kids swiped at it. Keeping the ball safely was a priority.
Similar to the defense, the next part of the day saw four different stations of different football positions: running backs, linemen, receivers and quarterbacks.
Linemen was about blocking and stance. The campers were shown the proper stance, keeping one’s legs wide apart. Once they had this down, they practiced protecting a quarterback in the pocket.
The receivers worked on form and stance. Having a key stance was emphasized for a good break to the play. They worked on different routes and how to properly catch the football.
Running backs was all about footwork and cutbacks. They went through a series of cones, cutting from one to another, holding the ball with the proper form. They switched hands and went through it again.
“I learn from each age group which players are committed to football and really enjoy it so far by the number of camps they attend,” Barutha said.
Quarterback was a simple station, but effective. They started working on footwork, simply bouncing in place. Then the campers acted as a quarterback, calling out the signal while football players snapped the ball to them.
The quarterbacks station concluded with working on throwing, whether it be from the knees or standing up.
Before a final scrimmage, there were two more sets of offensive installment the campers went through. One worked on running plays that included linemen, quarterbacks and running backs. Campers went through running plays against the Lakeland football team.
The other campers worked on passing. They used everything they learned and had a set of offensive linemen, receivers and quarterbacks. They worked on their cadence and timing as campers would run their routes.
This all set up a final seven-on-seven scrimmage. The older kids faced each other and the younger kids faced each other as two different scrimmages broke out. The key here was to take all they had learned from both days and use them in a fun way.
The football team and coaches helped the campers work out different plays, as the campers lined up just like they would in a real game.
“I kind of just look at how simple offense really is and how we can learn from what they’re doing and then how far ahead we are from what they’re doing,” Albertus said.
The campers learned how to play the game of football from those who knew it best. It won’t be long before these young campers become the Thunderbirds of today.
Brett LaBore may be reached at [email protected] or [email protected]