We had an incredible time this week with our youth football camp at CPA.
Three years ago we made a decision to move to a full contact camp for rising 4th grade through rising 7th grade. My desire was to take our varsity staff and give these kids a positive first experience with hitting.
That first year we had 25 or 30 participants and actually only ran half-line drills to get a scrimmage feel.
Nevertheless, it was a fun time and we felt like it was something worth doing.
Year 2, we grew to around 40 and actually got in an 11 vs 11 scrimmage for both age groups. We match up 4/5 and 6/7 for practice purposes (and still have to watch body size match-ups).
This year though, was really sweet - we started Monday with 74 and ended the week with 80!
I especially like how we do the week.
Day 1- We carefully check the fit of the equipment and let them hit the big stand-up dummies. We then teach our warm-up drills (having fun HOORAHS). I then have them pick a partner about their size and we go through teaching stations- ball security, blocking, throwing, catching, form tackle, and SNEAK ATTACK. Sneak attack is a drill we developed based on a Marine competition called 'wooded engagement'. It is two teams of 5 who hide behind these big landing mats turned on their side. Each round a coach picks a number 1-5 and that represents how many players will go onto the battlefield.
One side is offense, the other defense and the battlefield is a 10 yard x 7 yard rectangle.
I say "Ready, Ready, SNEAK ATTACK" and then guys come around from behind the big mat. At that point you see the odds- completely random- 5 vs 5 or 5 vs 4 or 3 vs 2 ... endless possibilities including 5 vs 1! And then they just go at it. There is a ball carrier- maybe 1 or more blockers- and then between 1 to 5 defenders. Fun stuff! We love when a guy fights as hard as he can to make a play against tough odds!
After the teaching stations- we do some group teaching and then play "Smash and Crash"- smash and crash is backyard football in pads. Each player is an eligible receiver and there are unlimited forward passes and laterals per play. The best games are on smaller field and a consists of numbers about 12 vs 12.
Day 2 and 3- we teach offensive and defensive groups and put in plays from a playbook that we show in the huddles. We take time to scrimmage and always end with sneak attack.
Day 4 is fun. We start the day with a variety of hitting drills: One more chance to encourage good/safe techniques contact. (One more round of Sneak Attack).
I then take them into the locker room, teach them about the Football Creed- teach the chant- teach our silly celebration song- and show a varsity highlight tape (about 6 minutes). We run out of the locker room motivated to have our best practice and scrimmage yet!
We do live scrimmage (2 at a time 4/5 and 6/7) and end with one last 'SMASH and CRASH'
We close every practice with stretching and prayer.
It was a blast seeing these young boys gradually face fears- fight fatigue- learn how to encourage and persevere- and slowly embrace the contact part of football.
The end product? After 4 short days (9-11:30 AM)- these guys walk off the field- red faced- sweating- feeling a lot of satisfaction that they had faced a challenge and won- that they had done something special- a looking forward to doing it again in the fall.
"Father, thank you for keeping us safe and thank you for the ability to have fun in football."