Summer is technically still a few days off and the hottest days of the year are only beginning in Statesboro.
But it’s never too early to get a head start on football.
Throughout the week, some of the youngest players from around the area are taking part in a fundamentals camp being hosted by the Statesboro-Bulloch County Parks and Recreation Department with lead instruction by UGA Hall of Famer and current Langston Chapel Middle School coach Cassius Osborn. Kids aged 7-14 began work on Monday and will be taking part in five-hour daily sessions through Thursday afternoon.
“I first started talking to (SBCPRD Athletics Superintendent) Darryl Hopkins about doing this three weeks ago,” Osborn said. “There are some baseball and soccer and basketball camps around, but nothing really for football for kids as this age.”
Osborn initially saw a handful of kids sign up and nearly two dozen took the field for the first day of camp Monday.
During each session, Osborn and his staff —made up of volunteers from SBCPRD and Phi Beta Sigma volunteers — are focusing on the basics that will give campers a leg up when their rec leagues or middle school seasons begin. From three-point stances, to routes and basic techniques, campers are getting a great primer for the season to come.
“It’s just about playing and having fun, and maybe learning some new things,” Hunter Saussy, 11, said. “I play about every position other than the line, so there’s a lot for me to learn and the coaches are teaching a lot.”
Saussy will begin his first year at William James Middle School this fall. He has played since the earliest age groups of rec league ball and will be going against players significantly older for the first time this year. With this week’s camp under his belt, Saussy hopes to begin his middle school career ahead of the game.
Statesboro residents aren’t the only ones taking advantage of the camp.
Tyler Buggs, 10, from Metter is headed into the fifth grade, but is already a seasoned veteran of summer camps. He’s been to sessions in Statesboro, Augusta, and parts in between, always looking to make new friends and learn some new skills.
“My mom and I were actually getting ready to sign up for basketball when we heard about this camp,” Buggs said. “I’ve been playing football since I was big enough to hold a ball, so I always want to go to camps and learn whatever I can.”
Osborn and his coaching staff are excited that they’ll be able to impart the basic skills necessary for any level of competition.
Some of this summer’s campers have yet to participate in live tackling during games, but the circuit training set up by the camp staff aims to hammer home fundamentals that can help experienced players just as much as those hitting the field for the first time.
“These kids are great to work with,” Osborn said. “We’ve got some young kids out here, but that’s actually great for us. We didn’t want this to be a work camp where everyone is grinding hard.
“I like that the kids listen and ask questions. Everyone is excited to learn a little more about football. That’s what we’re trying to do and what we want to keep doing in years to come.”
Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.