By Justin Sokeland
BEDFORD – In the worst of a 92-degree, typically brutal July afternoon with the Indiana humature (that’s temperature plus humidity) level approaching the melting point of most solids, Bedford North Lawrence glimpsed its football future.
Anyone willing to sweat through two hours of introductory drills deserves respect, even if the young men (grades K-6) weren’t too far from Mom (who was sitting in the safety of an air-conditioned vehicle, by the way).
One of these days, Mom will be sitting on cold metal bleachers, freezing during a late October night, and remember this Wednesday afternoon was the kickoff to a career. At least that’s the intent of the annual youth camp, sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club of Lawrence County and staffed by BNL coaches and athletes. Start ‘em small, watch them grow into the game.
BNL seniors Justice Woods and Jacob Hobbs remember when they fell in love with football as second-graders, which is why they were among the dozen Stars who helped this next generation with their first taste of drills and fundamentals. Welcome to Football 101.
“It’s sparking interest,” BNL coach Steve Weber said. “Other sports, like baseball and basketball, they can reach way down low (to young ages) for games and such. And we can’t get down there. So this is a chance to introduce them at the lowest levels, that this is a fun game as well.”
The 25 athletes who answered the call went through five offensive stations, learning the basics of lineman stance, quarterback footwork, throwing and receiving skills, even the most rudimentary process of running and cutting off the proper foot. They’ll do it again on Friday – same time, same focus on defensive skills, same sweltering field.
“This is a jump start on what they can expect when they get to the high school level,” said Kendall Reid, the athletic director at the Club and a member of the BNL staff. “It gives them an expectation. We want to show how it’s fun, so they can fall in love with the game.”
Football is not for everyone. Neither is baseball (stuck in right field without a ball being hit your direction for 6 innings is tough for an 8-year old) or basketball (that dribbling skill takes time to master). Some, like Woods and his rambunctious nature for physical contact, are perfectly suited.
“I was a rough little kid, I liked to hit people,” Woods said with a smile. “I want them to feel it, to get them into it so they stick with it. Then when they’re in high school, they can teach kids this age.”
Pads, positions and physicality are still years away. Right now, these young men are absorbing lessons, many playing the game for the first time, others getting a first-hand look at BNL football in about four more years. Some were prepared, with cleats, gloves and an intensity.
“They see it takes a little bit of work, and you have to have some toughness,” Weber said. “This is our chance to show them it’s fun, to stick with it, because we’ll need them.”
Train up a child, Proverbs says, in the way they should go, and when they are old, they will not depart from it. While that ancient writer didn’t have football in mind when he penned that inspired line, it works. If the young men follow this current path, they won’t depart. They will always remember their first look.
“I want to teach them the fundamentals of the game, just like I was taught when I was a little kid,” Hobbs said. “It’s crucial for learning the game.”