By Merrick Eagleton
STILLWATER, Okla. —
Storm clouds, thunder claps and lightning strikes aren’t ideal weather for a summer football camp. But that’s what Stillwater youth were faced with when they showed up to the Stillwater High football camp Tuesday morning.
The threatening weather forced Pioneer coach Tucker Barnard to send the campers, ranging from first to sixth grade, inside the high school gym. With the sudden change of plans the coaches had to set up similar offensive and defensive practice drills inside.
“You’ve got to be flexible,” Barnard said. “We put together some different drills and stuff for them to do. It’s still stuff that relates, it’s stuff that’s useable. We just had to find stuff you could do inside.”
Moving the football camp inside limited what the coaches could do with the campers. However, the bigger limitation was on how much fun the campers could have in the gym rather than on the field.
“What it really limits is how much fun the kids are having,” Barnard said. “When you’re in the second grade you want to be on the football field, so it may change their perception of what’s going on but we can do a lot of the same things in there with a group this size.”
The recent rain isn’t the typical problem for summer camps though. The first two Tuesdays of camp were hot. Barnard said they are constantly monitoring the weather, heat index and how the campers are handling it.
“Probably the most important thing is just paying attention to the kids, watching how they’re reacting,” Barnard said.
Unlike older athletes, it is easy for the coaches to tell when the campers need a break. Barnard said younger kids get dehydrated quicker. They will begin to look pale and get lethargic, he said.
“If they’re not doing well they don’t hide that very well,” Barnard said. “Sometimes they’ll (high school athletes) try to hide their symptoms if they can, but these guys they don’t. With a little bit of a discerning eye we can watch and pay attention to them. We really haven’t had any problems.”
The athletes in fourth-grade and up do more extensive drills, however it is all football skills. There are not any running or conditioning exercises.
“Probably what we’re doing is not a whole lot worse on these young guys than if they’re outside playing at the park or something,” Barnard said.
The campers are free to take a water break whenever they need one. Also, the camp is held one day a week which gives the campers a chance to recover from the heat.
“We also think that’s been something that’s helpful for these little guys,” Barnard said. “Even if it is really hot they’ve got a full week before they have to come out here again.”