The past couple years, the attendance at Seymour High School’s youth football camp wasn’t where the program wanted it to be.
However, thanks to some changes by Owls head varsity coach Mike Kelly and his staff, the 2019 sessions at Bulleit Stadium broke the trend of averaging around 25 athletes.
Last week, 82 kids participated in the four-day event on the SHS campus.
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“It’s a good problem to have,” Kelly said. “We moved our camp up earlier this year. We were in July previously. I think it opened it up for more kids to come out. We also kept the cost low. It was $15 for the week. I think those two factors helped significantly.”
The camp, which ran Tuesday through Friday, was broken up into groups of kindergartens through fourth-grades and fifth- through eighth-graders.
“The focus for our little guys is to just get them around football,” Kelly said. “I’ve gone through our community and asked kids if they’re going to play football and they say, ‘No, I’m not a football player.’ I ask them if they’ve ever played, and they say no. Our main focus is to get them introduced to the game and to get them on a field.
“Secondly, we teach them the basic fundamentals of the game. We teach them how to get into basic stances and techniques. We then progress to more complex things. It’s progressive from the first day to the last. The fifth- through eighth-graders, we put them into more position-oriented groups. Their focuses are a bit more detailed.”
Tyler Bobb, an incoming third-grader at Immanuel Lutheran, said it was his third time at the camp.
“It’s fun, I want to get better,” Bobb siad. “I like having the ball and running around, but I like it the most because my dad played. He passed away and I want to represent him. I want to play football at Seymour High School.”
All of the SHS coaching staff, and a handful of players, helped Kelly run the camp.
“It’s a huge asset to have all eight of our coaches out here,” Kelly said. “We have several new coaches out here, too. They get to know each other and our players. I tell our players all the time (the campers) are the future. Some day there will be a little kid that says they played football because of X, Y, or Z. Spending time with them makes a difference. They are in the stands on Friday nights, and (the players) could be why they play in the future. I want them to also understand the impact they can make on their community.”
Bret Perry, an incoming eighth-grader at Seymour Middle School, said he worked on a variety of skills at the camp.
“I just wanted to get better at football,” Perry said. “I know I have a lot to learn. We’re learning how to tackle and get into good stances on defense. We’ve worked on three-step drops for quarterback.”
Kelly, who is entering his third year at the helm at SHS, said that he’s seeing kids come back each year to the camp.
“You see a reoccurring group of individuals each year,” he said. “That first year we had about 24 guys. I think most of them have come back. Last year we were about 26.”
Incoming Immanuel Lutheran seventh-grader Michael Wright said he’s working on skills that will help the high school team down the road.
“I’m just trying to get better,” Wright said. “I’m trying to get better for high school. We’re working on footwork and getting faster. We’re working on techniques and a lot of other stuff. We’re building up for everything. Each year, we get stronger. We are learning how to bet better players and teammates.”
Many of the players at the camp participate in the Seymour Area Youth Football League, which will start its season in August.
“Our focus is to build our SAYFL any way we can,” Kelly said. “We tell our SAYFL that they are the lifesource of our program. Without them, we’re going to struggle. Getting those numbers up is a big priority. They have gotten out and done the legwork to hep build that youth program up.”