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Eye on the Future

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Fayette Central fourth-grader Chloe Maze participates in a throwing drill at the 2019 Connersville High School football camp at Spartan Arena on Tuesday evening. Her parents are Kristin and John Maze.
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Connersville first-grader Reed Mullins wraps up a tackling dummy during a drill Tuesday evening at the 2019 Connersville High School football camp, held at Spartan Arena on Monday through Wednesday. Mullins’ parents are Jake and Lauren Mullins.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

With spring just around the corner, high school athletes interested in baseball, softball, track and field, tennis and golf are going full throttle, preparing for the upcoming season.

Both this week and next, another group of competitors, albeit much younger than the high school kids, are hard at work as well.

More than 50 elementary-aged kids shuffled into Spartan Arena on Monday evening to take part in the Connersville High School football camp, a three-day instructional clinic offered for free by Connersville High School coach Adam Kelly and his staff.

Once the camp got started, things took off in earnest, as nearly everywhere you looked inside the gym, kids were tackling, throwing the ball, and learning the fundamentals of the game.

Though it might have seemed a bit overwhelming to some, that’s the way Kelly set it up, and he would not have it any other way.

“At this level, things we teach are more fundamental, the proper stance, how to snap the ball, how to take a hand-off, things like that,” he said. “The clinics give myself and the staff an opportunity to get to know the kids and their parents. It’s a great fitness activity, and is also a great social activity, as the kids are getting to hang out with their buddies while doing it.”

Kelly said that the numbers at this year’s camp is similar to what he had last spring.

“We’re about where we were last year,” he said. “We had about 50-60 kids attend this camp last year, and that’s about where we are again this year. We’ve promoted it as giving those that attend the camp a chance to sign up for our youth league at a cheaper rate.

“Obviously, we’d like more than what we have, but that said, I am pleased with the numbers that we have here.”

Broken up into age groups, the K-5th grade students were rotated through the different stations, ran by Kelly and his coaching staff.

The CHS coach said that the talent level of the kids, many of whom were repeat attendees at the clinic, varied, particularly by grade.

“With some of the older kids, the skill level is really good,” he offered. “Some of the fifth-graders that will be in sixth next year weren’t here, so some of that talent was missing tonight.

“Some of the fourth graders were missing tonight as well, due to baseball and other things.”

In spite of that, Kelly noted that, for even the youngest of the campers, learning was important, and for the most part the camp was successful in achieving that.

“I believe that the kids are doing a good job grasping what we are trying to teach,” he said. “The difference between the first- and second-grade kids and the older kids is that the fifth- and sixth-graders are listening and performing the tasks, while the younger kids aren’t as serious about it, pulling on one another and stuff like that at times.”

While high school is quite a ways off for most at the camp, those interested in putting on pads and playing the game won’t have to wait until then.

“We had close to 30 kids on our fifth-grade youth team last year,” Kelly said. “That team has been picking up a few kids each year, so we expect them to be at that 30-mark or more.

“Last year’s third-grade team was small, but the second-grade squad was bigger, so our numbers have been consistent. But the thing I am most pleased with is the development of our players, which has really increased.”

Included on those teams and present at the camp on Tuesday was several young ladies.

Coach Kelly noted that they held their own against the boys.

“It’s nice to see them out here,” he said. “We’ve got four or five of them that play in the league in some of the younger classes. It’s great that they’re here. They’re being active, being coached by good people, and at this age level they have shown a maturity level higher than some of the boys. They do a good job.”

The elementary camp ran through Wednesday, but the work for Kelly and his assistants isn’t over.

They’re all back to work next week, taking sixth-graders and middle school players through the paces.

“Next week, we’ll be able to get more into the schematics of the game,” Kelly said of the approaching camp. “We’ll work on some of the same basic things that we worked on in this week’s camp, but the difference next week is that we should be able to get through that in a day or so with the older kids. That will leave us time to work on some of the more advanced stuff.”

While getting his charges to learn is high on the list for Kelly, he admits that getting them to understand the Xs and Os of the game finishes second to one thing even more important.

“I definitely want them to gain some knowledge of the game,” he said. “More importantly, however, I want them to develop a love for the game. That’s the thing that is going to allow us to continue to feed our team at the high school level.”