After flood, camp-going high-school football players resurge

BY TRAVIS VARNER | JUNE 16, 2009 7:11 AM

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Aspiring high-school football players are in Iowa City this week trying to improve their skills under the guidance of college and high-school coaches at the annual Hawkeye football camp.

The players, ages 14-18, started camp on Sunday, and they will participate in six sessions, concluding tonight. The high-school athletes are learning the values of hard work, fundamentals, and position-specific strategies.

Iowa offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe thinks it is a great opportunity for all eager football players to assess their athletic ability against opponents from around the country. He feels the camp, which was postponed by the flood last summer, gives the athletes a chance to hear opinions and tips from coaches around the area that could really improve their game in the future.

“A lot of young guys are really hungry to learn, and that’s why they’re here in camp. You get a chance to work on their fundamentals, and a chance to compete against all different types of competition,” O’Keefe said. “It’s a great opportunity for them to grow as a player and get a lot of great coaching from college and high-school coaches.”

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The camp had nearly 375 players running position-specific drills across four football fields. The sounds of pads hitting, whistles blowing, coaches instructing, and players yelling could be heard throughout the Hawkeye Recreational Fields. The players were all individually identifiable, wearing different practice jerseys and their high-school logos plastered on their helmets.

Iowa’s recently appointed director of football operations, Paul Federici, is pleased with how the first camp under his leadership is going. He said there are roughly 40 coaches on site instructing the camp participants. The players range through all skill levels, he said, and any high-school player can participate in the camp.

“I think it [the camp] is going well so far, it’s my first camp, and there’s no major drama … a few problem-solving issues, but nothing significant,” Federici said. “It’s open to all freshmen, sophomores, juniors, and seniors. It’s a very public camp that welcomes kids from all over the country.”

Running a football camp with four different age groups can be a difficult task because of the inequalities in experience. O’Keefe said the coaches running the drills have to adapt and sometimes slow the pace of the drills when dealing with the younger participants.

“You just try to take things a little slower, making sure they’re able to grasp the concepts and have a chance to work themselves to a point to where they become proficient at something,” he said. “Let’s just say a quarterback taking a drop is more like a dance routine in a lot of ways, and it takes them time to perfect any drop or dance routine.”

Tim Casey, a football coach at City High, has been observing the camp for around a decade. He sits back and watches the fireworks on the field, keeping tabs on what’s going on and trying to learn new drills for his own team.

“I’m here to watch some of the players from City High compete, and maybe learn some new drills from the college coaches … I just kind of watch and kind of learn something,” he said.

Federici said all players can learn and develop no matter their age, but it’s especially important for high-schoolers.

“In high school, it’s a great opportunity to get exposed to some different teaching techniques and strategies that we implement with our own players,” he said. “Then the players can choose for themselves whether those teaching techniques work for them back at their schools.”

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