During a week that has seen temperatures skyrocket and sent most people flocking to the comfort of air conditioning, an energetic bunch of elementary school students have been braving the heat to be ready for the rapidly approaching football season.
This week marks the 7th annual Elementary FUNdamentals camp at Bulloch Academy. The camp, which began Monday and concludes today, is open to all rising 2nd through rising 5th graders and teaches the basics of football while providing an enjoyable way to welcome the young participants into the sport.
“We’re trying to make this a very exciting atmosphere,” said camp director and BA varsity defensive coordinator Ronnie Hodges. “Trying to drill in a bunch of concepts can be a drudgery, especially for young kids. We want to teach them about the game, but the most important thing is that everyone has fun while doing it.”
Although this year has a handful of campers from outside of the area, many are students at Bulloch Academy.
By hosting its own camp, Bulloch coaches are better able to see what they will have to look forward to in the coming seasons.
“Our coaches really like the fact that they are the ones getting these kids started,” said Hodges. “By hosting this camp, we can teach the kids that will be playing at BA our own ways of doing things, and it keeps us from having to re-teach things that might be different elsewhere.”
The camp also serves as a sort of preseason warm-up for Bulloch Academy’s elementary school team, which will begin its third season of competition this fall.
Dividends from the work put in by campers already have shown themselves as the Gators achieved a perfect record last season and are 8-4 in their brief history.
“I think this camp makes a tremendous difference,” said Hodges. “When the elementary season begins, it’s a huge benefit for our coaches to have players that already have a basic understanding of things.”
The FUNdamentals camp doesn’t draw up any plays, but instead shows the participants the different skills and techniques that are essential for success on the football field. Sprints and quickness drills showcase athleticism and speed, while blocking and footwork exercises teach the subtle skills that will benefit players as they grow.
“This is my third year at the camp, and I always like coming here,” said David Carico.
Carico, 10, will begin fifth grade in the fall and looks forward to competing on the Gators’ elementary squad this season.
“It’s a lot of hard work, but it’s also fun,” said Carico. “I think it really helps the guys who are playing this fall. We were really good last year, and I think we can do it again this year.”
While teaching is always on the minds of the coaches and BA varsity players who help run the camp, the main goal -- as the camp’s title implies -- is for everyone to have a fun time.
“We do a lot of competitive drills,” said Hodges. “It really gets the kids into it. We teach a lot of football skills, but we’ll do things like tug-of-war to keep everyone’s attention.”
A camp favorite is “Gator Ball”. The game is similar to normal football, with two teams trying to move the ball down the field. The catch is that -- unlike normal football rules -- the ball can be thrown in any direction, at any time, to any team member in order to keep the play going.
One more day of drills -- and another round of “Gator Ball” -- remains for today’s activities.
An added bonus is that today is Parents’ Day, where the campers’ parents will be permitted to watch practice and the participants will be able to show off the things they have learned this week.
Mike Anthony can be reached at (912) 489-9404.