LIVE OAK, Fla. — The first week with the Suwannee High football team in full pads ended with a robust three-hour football camp Friday for about 45 Suwannee-area youth.
It was the first time the “Day with the Dogs” camp was held and was run by coach Kyler Hall. Assistant coaches and players were present and Hall wants the event to continue.
The camp lasted from 9 a.m. to noon and included a handful of upcoming players from Branford as well. The children were broken up into three groups: First and second graders, third and fourth and fifth and sixth graders. The impressive turnout culminated in Hall’s exciting “Bulldog Ball” scrimmages.
“We’ll play a game called Bulldog Ball…it’s like a football game with a basketball mentality, going up and down the field,” Hall told the campers. “Throwing the ball every way, backward and forward.”
Workouts consisted of offensive and defensive drills, special teams and kicking and the live scrimmages.
The camp kids started out with warmups that included jogging, high kicks, stretches and sprinting with some of the Bulldogs’ players leading the way by example. The Bulldogs were a part of every practice the children had and were very supportive and enthusiastic the entire camp for the attendees.
Temperatures were in the high 80s with total sunshine, with Hall giving instruction along the way: “Long step, sink the hips…on the whistle.”
He was also encouraging the kids with light banter, feedback and a watchful eye. Hall and the coaches were also vocal about reminding the kids to stay hydrated.
While the football players were outside, the school’s cheerleaders were inside the gym having their own “Day with the Dogs” camp with 12 attendees. Like on the practice fields outside, varsity and junior varsity cheerleaders were proactive with helping with instruction of the kids.
Cheerleading coach Pam Williams said the camp practices included “Motions, jumps, cheers and dances.” They cheerleaders were also doing single and multiple-girl pyramids with the camp girls, often in unison.
Back outside, the three age groups rotated practicing between line, running backs and receivers while on offense and line, defensive backs and running drills while on defense. The Bulldogs’ players helped out every step of the way, passing along knowledge. It was all good, early and repetitive instruction for young kids, giving them an healthy dose of routine and following orders.
Included in helping out was Georgia Bulldog commit Josh Braun. Braun helped out with offensive and defensive line drills.
Braun was happy for a chance to provide a sense of community for the kids.
“Help get the next batch of Bulldogs ready and instill a love for the game,” he said.
A big reason Hall wanted to start the event was to help area youth.
“One, just to get them out of the house, have some fun, that’s the No. 1 thing,” he said. “Have a good time playing football. Learn some fundamentals…They’re going through every position. So, it doesn’t matter if you’ve played before or if you haven’t played. It’s all about learning and having a good time; and they seem to like what they’re doing today.
“We’ll continue to do this every year, make it bigger and better. Offense and defense with some special teams, kicking. I wanted to get a camp going This is actually a bigger turnout than I thought we’d have, which is always a good sign. We also got the cheerleading camp going as well…
“Anything to get the kids involved, get them around these older guys and the girls and their cheerleading. I believe our student-athletes here have do a really good job of setting a good example. The more our youth get around them, it benefits everyone. And that’s what it’s about, have some fun with the kids. Also Ms. Adrienne Taylor, we couldn’t do it without her. She was in charge of our registration, and getting the flyers out. She was a big help.”
Finally, toward the end, the players got to play Bulldog Ball. Each game was 12 minutes long, and all three groups got a chance to play. The kids were instructed that it was two-hand tag with no tackling. It was an energetic game and kids being kids, some tags were ignored and out-of-bounds wasn’t always adhered to. Teams consisted of about 12 players each and the field was 40 yards long.
There were fun moments, like when Xevyon Kirkland, in the first- and second-grade group, ran for a long touchdown, which the kids and coaches loved.
In the third grade and fourth grade-group, Parker Hill, with the group from Branford, scored a running touchdown.
“It was going to be a pass play, but they started rushing, so I started running,” Hill said.
The camp ended with a huddle and coach Hall telling the kids they, “Competed hard and played hard…lets break it down with Bulldogs 1, 2 , 3.”