Starting young

Fred McCormick

The familiar sights and sounds of future Owen football players return to the Swannanoa Valley this week as the Warhorse Youth Football and Cheerleading camp gets underway on Monday.

The free noncontact football camp offers children ages 5-13 an opportunity to learn basic fundamentals from youth league coaches before the season begins.

Third-year league president Darren Messer said the camp not only gives coaches a chance to assess players’ skill levels but also provides a chance for those new to the sport to see if football is for them.

“We do it for free to kind of let them get their feet wet and see if they want to play or not,” Messer said. “We’ll go over stances for particular positions, and we do some drills for the skill positions.”

Using dummies, coaches will also work with various age groups on proper tackling technique.

Last year, the camp attracted more than 80 potential football players to the campus at Owen High School. Messer is hoping for more participants this year to fill out the Pups, Termites, Mites and Midgets Warhorse rosters.

“I hope we end up with enough kids out there that we have to buy more equipment,” he said.

The camp, scheduled to open July 20, will give youth coaches an opportunity to attend a coaching clinic hosted by Owen head coach Nathan Padgett. The youth league could be a pipeline supplying future Owen High football players, he believes.

“One of my ultimate goals is to help bridge the gap between the high school, the middle school and the youth league, because we’re all essentially one program,” he said. “I think it is important to build those relationships to help establish continuity.”

Padgett has invited youth league and middle school football coaches to his team’s facilities at the high school Saturday in an effort to create synergy among the programs.

“We’ll try to make our program transparent to them in hopes that they can possibly emulate some of the things we’re doing,” he said. “Our hopes are that, down the road when those kids come to us, they’ll know the terminology that we’re using and we won’t have to re-teach them everything as freshmen.”

To that end, next summer he plans to offer a football camp in which his high school players will offer instruction to players in the youth league.

“I will also be bringing a few of my kids to the first day of this year’s Warhorse Youth Football camp,” Padgett said. “I’ve encouraged my coaches to show up as well. It’s a great way for us to build the bond between our team and that program and great way to get kids interested in playing for us.”

A basic introduction to competitive cheerleading routines will be offered during the camp as well, according to Messer’s wife Donna, the secretary of the league and a former cheerleading coach.

“There are no stunts in youth league cheer, so we work with them on the basics,” she said.

Warhorse Youth Football and Cheerleading camp info:

When: July 20, 21, 23, 24 from 6 p.m. - 8 p.m.

Where: Owen High School

Registration: The camp is free to all that are interested but open registration will be offered for the season. The cost is $100 for football and $150 to cheer

For more information contact Jason Putnum at (828) 231-6672 or Angela Shaw at (828) 582-2555