Every football player got his start somewhere.
So did every coach.
About 170 Austin-area children ages 7 to 14 came to Kelly Reeves Athletic Complex on Saturday afternoon for the 2013 Shock Doctor Team USA FUNdamentals camp.
It was a fun, free afternoon for the kids and the U.S. Under-19 National Team players, who joined with U.S. National Team coaches in breaking down the sport into simple drills that the participants could enjoy.
“This was fun,” said Paul James, a Team USA defensive end from Miami, Fla., who will play college football at Illinois. “These kids really like football, and it makes me happy that the next generation loves the sport as much as I do. Seeing the smiles on their faces makes it all worth it.”
James and his teammates took a time out from their two-a-day practices to get ready for the fourth annual International Bowl, which kicks off at 8 p.m. CT Tuesday at Kelly Reeves.
James assisted at the defensive line station, one of seven stops in the rotation. Players learned proper three- and four-point stances as well as how to get a good jump off the snap.
“Coaches have helped me get to where I am, so it’s only fair that I should give back a little, too,” James said. “It gave me a taste of coaching, and I like it.”
Other stations included drills for quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers, offensive linemen, linebackers and defensive backs. The 10-minute sessions consisted of drills designed to teach the basic skills of each position group.
Medical experts agree that learning a sport’s fundamentals at a younger age reduces the chance for injury in the sport.
For Nick Hoenig, that meant expanding the skills he has learned in his short football career.
“I learned how to better catch the ball, and I learned how to be a lineman,” the 9-year-old from Austin said. “It was fun. I’d come back again.”
Jesse Rodriguez of Leander, Texas, said his 10-year-old son, Tanner, picked up nuggets of information he can take back to help when football season returns this fall.
“What an awesome day,” said Rodriguez, a youth football coach and USA Football coaching member. “He’s doing everything he can to learn and get better, and this will help his skill set grow. It’s a real good refresher for him, and he’s learning some new stuff.”
At the defensive backs station, Louisville (Ky.) St. Xavier High School head coach Bart Bruner, a U.S. Under-18 National Team assistant, taught participants how to properly backpedal and catch the ball at the highest point.
He hopes the players each learned a few techniques they can take home with them and teach their friends.
“I don’t see how a kid can go to a camp like this and not pick up something to help,” Bruner said. “Improving basic skills – that’s what it’s all about at this age.”
That was the goal for Caroline Wendt, a 13-year-old flag football player from Round Rock, Texas. She and her two brothers came to Kelly Reeves to have some fun and pick up what they could.
“I’m a wide receiver, but I enjoyed learning how to get down in the stances and how to play on the line,” Wendt said.
The most interesting part, maybe, but not necessarily the most fun.
“Yeah,” she said. “Catching the ball with one hand – that was the best.”