By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Eight weeks ago, Tucker Barnard and the Stillwater High School football staff were just trying to teach campers how to line up correctly, hoping they would eventually catch on.
Tuesday, as the second four-week session of Stillwater High School youth football camp came to a close, Barnard was the one trying to catch up.
“We’ve definitely seen improvement over the last several weeks,” Barnard said. “We’re wanting to teach them about football, but maybe more important than that is we wanted them to have some fun and get some real life lessons.”
Whether it was the well-executed bubble screens or the nearly flawless drills during the final day, Barnard said the biggest challenge was to quench the campers thirst for more knowledge.
“We try to sneak some things in when we can,” Barnard said. “We don’t do it like we’re installing with the high school football program. We’re just sneaking things in a little bit at a time. That’s the great thing about spreading the camp out over the entire summer. We get to build on things and it doesn’t seem like it’s so much work to them.”
In fact, even as temperatures rose into the 90s Tuesday, it didn’t seem like work at all for camper Eli Parsons.
“It’s been really fun,” Parsons said. “The most fun thing that we’ve done over the course of this was learning drills and trying to become better football players. ... My favorite was the bubble drill.”
Parsons may have felt like he wasn’t doing much work, but there’s little doubt that the lessons learned over the course of the camp will pay off down the road.
“It helps while we’re on the field,” Andrew Tselee said. “If one of us gets injured or something, the things we learned will help us fill in for them.”
“It’s important because we’re telling them what our football program is about,” Barnard said. “We absolutely have goals to be a championship football program — there’s no doubt that we’re pointed in that direction and we’re striving toward that. But we’re also hoping to define our program and define what we do on a daily basis, and that’s what the core values — the values that we teach these kids at camp — are for.”
Whether it’s defining the program with a basic set of core values — helping players become better individuals both on and off the field — or working on a certain skill, the last eight weeks have been a unique experience.
“It’s been pretty cool,” Parsons said. “(Coach Kyle Lucas) taught us some stuff about soft hands and being able to catch the ball from any point and any angle.
“A big part of it is getting used to how (the Stillwater coaches) run things — getting used to the drills, getting used to the different plays and stuff.”
Barnard said it has taken some time getting everybody acclimated to his coaching style, but after the last eight weeks he feels like he’s built a solid foundation.
“We’re tired, but we feel good,” Barnard said. “We had a good time. We’ve had fun with them. As a coaching staff, we really enjoy the format of this camp. I’ve always felt like when we’ve done one week of camp, it’s just so hard to do all the things that you want to do. It’s hard to get the things that you want done, done and still have enough time to have fun.”
And while most of the camp may be full of fun and games, Barnard said he wasn’t just teaching football — he was also doing a little early scouting, looking for the next Stillwater star.
“It’s kind of funny because you do see little flashes of things that catch your eye,” Barnard said. “I catch myself thinking, ‘There’s a future receiver, right there. Or that kid might make a good quarterback.’ That’s definitely part of (the camp), but that’s down the line. Right now, we’re letting them decide where they want to be split up for positions. ... We definitely see some kids that we want to keep hooked up in our program.
“You never know with these kids. These are even younger kids, but something that we say in this program is that the 13-year-old is going to be 17 one day. You don’t know what a kid is going to look like three or four years down the road — let alone seven years. We just want to keep them involved, want them to enjoy it and hopefully they did that over the course of this camp.”