Last week, McDonnell was, for one day at least, a coach at the school’s annual three-day youth football camp July 17 to 19 at Patterson Community Stadium.
“It was good to be able to have a hand in molding our future athletes,” he said. “Giving the kids some knowledge about the sport is rewarding, because you can see them progress over the three days from the drills.”
In the three years Patterson High varsity football coach Nick Marchy has helped coordinate the Tigers’ summer youth football camps, he’s seen increasing growth.
“Our coaches teach these kids, our players work with these kids,” said Marchy, who was assisted at the camp by 12 of his assistant coaches and 20 of his varsity athletes. “We are just trying to teach kids fundamentals and a love of the game, and I think parents know they are getting a good product.”
Marchy said more than 90 campers participated in the three-day session, an increase of over 10 campers in attendance from last year .
“There’s a correlation to the continued improvement of the program — a correlation to the momentum our program is building — and I think we have a good product,” he said.
The camp, which cost $20 per participant, was open to children from 6 to 13 years of age. Each left with a Patterson High football T-shirt and a greater knowledge of form and technique.
After expenses, the campers’ fees raised about $1,700 for Patterson High football, Marchy said.
“That money goes right back into the football program,” Marchy said. “It helps pay for practice equipment, like footballs, jerseys, mouthguards, stickers (for helmets) — the stuff we use every day.”
Tuesday through Thursday, the campers went through stations, specializing in fundamental skills and the team concept of football. Individual groups were small, so campers received personalized instruction.
The youngest players were just getting their feet wet in the gridiron world. Marchy said the goal was to get them acclimated to the game so they could play without anxiety but rather filled with enthusiasm.
“We really wanted to talk about the game of football with this group,” Marchy said. “We gave confidence pointers and worked a lot on the technique of the sport.
“It’s our way of reaching out to the Pop Warner and other youth football programs in the community.”
The older participants were more developed — physically and mentally. Last week, a camper entering seventh grade sported a size 14 shoe. Another middle schooler wore an adult extra-large T-shirt.
The spectrum of physical development is broad with the older children, but the one thing that holds true for all the campers is love of the game, McDonnell said.
“Overall, football is a great sport,” he said. “At this level, it’s back to the basics and what the game is all about.”
John Guevara said he thought the camp would help him in the approaching youth football season.
“It’s important for players to learn the basics early, so that when we get to the next level, we are ready for anything,” said the 12-year-old. “It’s about trying your best. That’s how you get better.”
Participants didn’t wear pads because the camp was noncontact. All the children were grouped according to age, size and ability so they could compete against campers of similar talent.
Each camper worked on both offense and defense, receiving instruction in passing, receiving, route running and defending. Because football is a team sport, campers also ran drills in groups. That, Marchy said, helps them learn to work as a unit.
“The camp was a good way for the kids to get started with their conditioning for their own upcoming seasons,” Marchy said. “There were a lot of things that we did that they can take with them and apply to their own team practices once they begin those in a couple of weeks.”
While it’s certainly too early to say whether any future Tiger stars were in attendance, practicing football during the dog days of summer proved enjoyable for Guevara, at least.
“We learned to have fun playing the sport,” he said. “We made friends and we worked hard.”