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Thursday, October 18 News

Prep football campers having fun in the sun

FAIRFIELD - It was the kind of mid-summer day that you dream about. Mild temperatures, low humidity, a little bit of a breeze and dozens upon dozens of kids running around a football field, many of them just being kids until the man in the middle of the field blew his whistle and brought everything to order.

On this day, the final day of the third Fairfield Prep football camp, Jesuits coach Keith Hellstern gathered the campers - some 70 kids ranging in age from 11 to 14 (fifth grade to eighth grade) into a circle to prepare them for the morning’s activities. Today, was going to be fun as the campers were divided into teams and sent off to play football.

“We’re breaking them into groups and then seeding them for a tournament that we have,” Hellstern said. “They get into it, they enjoy it and the counselors do a good job of coaching them up and playing with them.”

The tournament is a fast-paced game - it’s just five-minutes long - on a 20-yard field with the object being to score as many touchdowns as you can before time runs out.

“This day (7-on-7 scrimmages) is really fun, all the kids and the coaches are hyped. It’s all fun,” said Jack Ritcher, 13, from Fairfield, who’s at the Prep camp for the third straight summer. “I really like working with the coaches, they’re always helping you out. They really pay attention to what you’re doing and they tell you what to do. You’re learning new things and improving on old things as well.”

Ritcher has been playing with the Pop Warner Fairfield Wildcats, as had 13-year old Wyatt Morgan, who’s 7-on-7 squad dropped a tough loss in overtime.

“It’s fun because I get to play with all my teammates and the coaches are really nice and we’re learning at the same time, so this is a win-win,” Morgan said. “They make the drills fun and they also add things like we had a punt, pass and kick competition the other day, we do 7-on-7 drills, it just makes everything a lot of fun.”

The week-long camp offered a little bit of everything to these kids, including a daily theme, individual drills and exercises.

“We usually give them a theme for the day (this day’s was teamwork),” Hellstern said. “We talk about why football is important and why’s it’s fun. What it means to have pride in your preparation. Then, we’ll do an individual circuit, offense or defense, switching the exercises that they do. There are six stations. Individual instruction at each position. Then, it’s an obstacle course or a punt, pass and kick competition.”

As this summer’s camp came to an end, Hellstern said that he had close to 70 kids enrolled - nearly double the amount from his first camp two years ago.

“The good thing I can say is that we’ve had a lot of repeat campers,” Hellstern said. “Guys that are out here now for their third year in a row, which is great. We have guys in their second year, they’ve had fun and the parents have been happy with it.”

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Especially in the sense that there are no expectations.

“Whatever they want to do, wherever they want to play, that’s where they go. We want them to self-select what they want,” Hellstern said. “Now, everyone has to learn multiple skills, so a guy that thinks he’s a quarterback still has to learn the basics of blocking, guys that are linemen still have to learn the basics of running with the football. We want to try and introduce them to all the fundamentals.”

So far, so good.

“It’s a good mix of kids and they do a good job of working together with the counselors,” Hellstern said. “My players do a great job, just kind of being role models, getting them lined up. It’s a lot of fun for the kids.”

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