Future taking root in the present

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Camps prep youngsters for high school days

By Mike Forster


Good high school sports teams are not made overnight.

In nearly every sport, the work and development which takes place well before high school is what translates into success on the varsity fields and courts.

Such developmental efforts were on display in the Liberty and Forest zones last week.

The Bedford Area YMCA hosted a basketball camp, while the Forest Youth Athletic Association fields were the site of a football camp.

Both of the camps were the result of partnerships and both were chock-full of kids having a ball while learning ball.

"I'm pleased with the turnout," said Raymond Arrington as he led his 27 charges through their paces at the YMCA hoops camp.  "Especially with Cop Camp and football camp taking place at the same time."

"Everything worked out well," said Tony Taylor, after watching 48 potential Jefferson Forest gridiron standouts at his camp.  "The kids had fun, and that's the main thing."

Indeed, fun seemed to be a watchword at both camps, along with learning.  "We're learning a lot of new things," said Caleb Eckart, at the hoops camp.  The rising seventh grader from Bedford Middle was focusing on better ball control during drills at the camp.  "I want to play for Liberty, and will play B-Team this year."

Classmate Mikah Dudley also aims to be a Minuteman when his time comes.  "I've grown up watching them," he said.

Tony Mineo, a rising fifth grader, was working on his pivot passing.  He took a break to let us know of his desire to play for Liberty.  "I want to help them, in case their basketball team is bad," said Mineo.  "I'll want to help make them better and can help them make more shots."

Arrington's camp wasn't about the flash.  "I see a lot of these kids don't have the fundamentals yet," he noted of his time coaching rec teams.  "They need to work on those early, and we need to make sure they don't get lost in the shuffle."

Dwayne Abbott, sports director at the YMCA, agreed with Arrington.  "We don't want coaches at the high school level in the position of having to break bad habits," he noted.

Over at FYAA, Jefferson Forest Head Coach Bob Christmas's staff was taking the same approach.

"We just want to introduce the kids to the system we're running at JF," said Jake Grove, an assistant to Christmas.  "I grew up in the system, which made the transition easier."

Grove noted that all the campers were demonstrating good things, and each had solid potential.

"When I started, I was not very good," he recalled.  "I worked hard, and things worked out for me."

They sure did: winning the Rimington Trophy at Virginia Tech and going on to a seven-year NFL career.

JF assistant coach Ed Landis added, "This camp lets the community know that we'll do whatever we can to increase the interest in the Forest community in JF football.

"The way to a successful program is to start from the ground up."

The campers seemed to reciprocate Landis's sentiment.  

"I love that they teach you so much and make it easy to understand," said Zachary Holland.

"I like that, in the end, they teach you in an elementary manner," said seventh grader Keenan Cupit.  "They're excellent coaches, and I want to play for JF."

Classmate Devin Thomas said, "The coaches are helping me focus and be better in everything about football."

And, one day, when Devin and the rest of the lads suit up in JF's red and black and the guys from the YMCA camp don Liberty red, white and blue, the work of those coaches will pay off for everyone involved in high school sports.