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Crisp fall-like weather: Youth football camp aims to instill fundamentals

The Worthington Football Youth Camp got under way in Worthington Monday for seventh- and eighth-graders

Youth football players join in a little bonding exercise during a warm up Monday evening at Trojan Field during a football camp.
Youth football players join in a little bonding exercise during a warm up Monday evening at Trojan Field during a football camp.
Tim Middagh / The Globe
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WORTHINGTON -- A steady rain fell on Worthington late Monday afternoon, but the heaviest stuff had already passed when the Worthington Football Youth Camp got under way on Trojan Field at about 6:20.

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It was good football weather. Cool. Overcast. And still a bit wet, as a few sprinkles landed on the seventh- and eighth-grade recruits gathered on the colorful and shiny artificial turf. Some of the youngest kids hadn’t set foot on Trojan Field since it was refurbished a couple of years ago. Some others hadn’t yet participated in organized football.

About 20 youngsters, mixed in with several WHS varsity gridders, took part in the camp under the direction of Trojans assistant coach Matt O’Neil. Other coaches attended, too, including head coach Geno Lais and longtime defensive assistant Scott Barber.

In the fieldhouse prior to taking the field, Lais explained a few tips the young players will need to remember. The Trojans don’t do high-fives, he said. Instead, they do fist bumps, and it’s designed so that players remember five people in their lives who make a difference. Fist, he said, is for family.

O’Neil said the camp is all about fundamentals -- the first fundamentals.

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“What we’re really trying to teach them is the basics,” he said. “At the youth level, it should be the basics and having fun.”

O’Neil explained that he, himself, didn’t understand the basics of football until he reached his sophomore year while growing up in New Ulm. But why wait till then?

Steven Berndgen, a linebacker coach watches as Middle School 7th-8th graders run a  tackle drill during a Football Youth Camp held at Trojan Field Monday evening.
Steven Berndgen, a linebacker coach, watches as seventh- and eighth- graders run through a tackling drill at Trojan Field.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

“We want them to really understand it now,” he said.

WINDOM — Adam Farag was a fine football player a few years ago at Windom Area High.

On Monday, the young future Trojans were taken through block-shedding and tackling drills from Barber, who has gained a reputation as a demanding, no-nonsense coach. But he was patient this time as he asked kids to tackle heads-up and not across the body.

“Always track the near hip,” he said, adding later, “Shoot those hips. Don’t get too high. If you’re too high, you’re gonna be the nail. We wanna be the hammer.”

Austin Olson (white cap) a Middle School coach teaches proper tackle technique to 7th-8th graders kids during Football Youth Camp monday evening at Trojan Field.
Coach Austin Olson (white cap) teaches proper tackling technique Monday at Trojan Field.
Tim Middagh / The Globe

In other drills, the youngsters attempted to beat the block of a dummy held by a varsity assistant and continue toward another dummy held by a second assistant. Some flew at the would-be ball carrier. Others did so with less gusto at first, then with more relish on their second and third attempts.

Some of the kids appeared to be quite young, and it was hard to believe they were old enough to take part. But for every one who braved the wet Monday weather, O’Neil and his helpers were pleased. For some of the youthful recruits, it may have been difficult to understand that they can’t easily replicate what they see from their favorite NFL players on Sunday afternoons, but they appeared to catch on quickly to first steps.

And they got the fist-bumping down right away.

Related Topics: FOOTBALL
Doug Wolter joined the Worthington Globe in December of 1983 as a sports reporter. He later became sports editor, and then news editor and managing editor. In 2006 he moved to Mankato with his wife, Sandy, and served as an editor at the Mankato Free Press. In 2013 he and Sandy returned to Worthington to take up the job of sports editor at The Globe, and they have been in Worthington since.

Doug can be reached at dwolter@dglobe.com.
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