By Nick Snow
STILLWATER, Okla. —
It’s a sight Stillwater High School football coach Tucker Barnard has seen all too often. A bunch of bleary-eyed high school students arriving at the crack of dawn, loading up their pads and treking an hour or more down the road to go to a team camp.
But when Monday rolls around, things are going to be a little different. That’s when the Pioneers will be hosting their own camp beginning at 9 a.m. in Pioneer Stadium.
“It’s definitely nice and it’s definitely something we’re looking forward to,” Barnard said. “We left at 6:15 a.m. this week to go to Mustang, so it will be nice to play at home, bring a couple schools in here and work to get better.”
Hosting a camp has been something that’s been in the works ever since Barnard took the job two years ago. But the biggest problem hasn’t been finding the necessary space but actually finding teams willing to come to Stillwater.
“It’s something that we’ve wanted to do,” Barnard said. “It’s difficult to do because teams that go to camp already have a camp to go to. Unless they’re unhappy with something that’s going on at the camp they’re at, you just don’t get a lot of schools leaving a camp and going to a different camp the next year. It just doesn’t happen all that often. People get comfortable and like going to the same place every year and kind of following the same routine.”
This year Barnard was able to shake that old routine and take a couple of teams with him. Yukon and Bartlesville will join Stillwater’s camp, with Barnard using Stillwater’s central location as the biggest bargaining chip.
“It’s going to be a pretty small camp, there’s just three teams — us, Bartlesville and Yukon,” Barnard said. “But it definitely gives us an opportunity. Bartlesville is an east school and Yukon’s a west school so it made sense to kind of meet here in the middle at Stillwater.”
The central location may have helped Stillwater become a big draw for the other two schools, but Barnard is hoping it also pays off on the field as well. Along with a few extra hours of sleep, the Pioneers will have all the amenities they usually have at home — their own locker room, training facilities and the familiar turf of Pioneer Stadium.
“Mainly, it’s just about a little bit less travel time, but it’s nice to walk straight out of the locker room and onto the football field,” Barnard said. “Then you can walk straight back into it when you’re done. That’s a better situation for us. I don’t know if it helps having it in the actual stadium, but we’re happy to be having it here.”
While the Pioneers may be playing at home, that doesn’t mean expectations are any different than that from the Mustang camp late this week.
“It’s the same expectations every year,” Barnard said. “We have a couple main goals in mind. We want to get a little better. We want to improve, we want to find out what our kids can do so that we can work to maximize that. Then, we want to stay healthy and that’s really what we’re after.”
And as for future camps, Barnard is hopeful to bring in even more schools in the coming years.
“We’d like to build it up a little,” Barnard said. “We’d like to see the camp max out with six or seven teams each year. I think that’s something we can do. I think we can match up east and west schools, get them together and not have it be too bad of a drive for anybody. Who knows? Maybe we can grow it to a place where we bring a bunch of schools in that stay overnight here and get to enjoy a couple days in Stillwater and go to (Eskimo) Joe’s and do some of that stuff too.”