Campers crowd around as FB Mike Alstott shares some football wisdom.
School has ended for the year and summer has begun for the thousands of kids in the Bay area. And for kids everywhere, it's time to have fun and make memories at summer camp.
Summer camp can mean many things; climbing trees, arts and crafts, and making s'mores around the campfire. But for kids at the 6th annual Mike Alstott Youth Camp or the inaugural Brad Johnson Camp it means just one thing—football!
Now in its 6th year, the Mike Alstott Football Camp was established to provide young athletes between the ages of 8-18 the opportunity to develop their fundamental football skills in a well-supervised, organized and enthusiastic environment. The Alstott Camp is a day camp featuring instruction in all football positions. Minor emphasis is placed on kicking/punting, but deep snapping is specifically highlighted during the special teams sessions.
"We did our first camp six years ago at the Big Sombrero (Houlihan Stadium)," said Alstott. "And it's been awesome ever since."
Alstott, who has hosted one camp in St. Petersburg and one in Tampa for the past two years, knows that he has to tailor his camp by separating the kids into elementary, junior high and senior high age groups.
"We have a lot of experienced coaches at the camp. We just want the younger kids to have fun and enjoy the game. Let them interact with a pro athlete and put a smile on their face. The older kids I want to learn the fundamentals and to learn how to communicate with each other on the football field."
The instructors include former Tampa Bay Buccaneers, major college coaches from across the country, and high school head coaches and coordinators from the Tampa Bay area.
The director of Mike's camp is David Ross, who is now the head football coach and athletic director at Bacone College in Muskogee, Oklahoma.
"I love working with Mike," said Ross. "There isn't a better guy in the league than Mike Alstott and when we first got together we had a similar vision as to what we were looking for and we just clicked. Mike genuinely wants to help and work with the kids."
Coach Ross isn't the only one that believes in the Mike Alstott football Camp. Several campers come back year after year to absorb the knowledge that Alstott and his counselors pass along. One of those campers is 15-year-old Thomas Felsmaier, a sophomore at Bartow High School, who has attend Alstott's Camp every year it's been in existence.
"You learn a lot from the coaches and Mike really interacts with the kids. And I enjoy that a lot. I play offensive line and the offensive line coaches have really helped me with my blocking techniques."
But Alstott's camp isn't just for the boys either. Nina Garcia, a ten year-old quarterback and two-year veteran of the camp, is one of the girls that attend Alstott's Camp.
Dressed in a t-shirt that boasted that "Girls Love Dirt," Garcia was just another one of the campers. "It's fun because you get to meet Mike and learn football, too. Last year, I was the only girl here, but it's really fun hanging out with the boys."
Hanging out with the boys isn't the only thing Garcia has done at the Alstott Camp, she's also impressed the camp namesake.
"Nina can wing it," said an impressed Alstott. "I've watched her here the past few days and she is just throwing TD's all over the place. It's great to watch."
But for the football junkie, the Alstott Camp, which took place in St. Pete from June 19-22 and in Tampa from June 24-27, wasn't the only game in town.
Buccaneers QB Brad Johnson hosted his football camp at Eckerd College on June 20-23 for campers age 8-18.
"This is my first camp that I've had as my own," said Johnson. "I've worked a lot of camps and I attended a lot of football and basketball camps as a kid. My dad runs summer camps, so I kind of grew up in that lifestyle and it's something I really wanted to do."
Tom Korun, the President of Forever Sports Group, which runs Brad's Camp chose the quarterback for that reason.
"We understand his (Brad's) commitment to youth and he's just a very personable guy that relates very well to the kids."
Johnson's Camp features the standard passing, receiving, running, blocking and tackling instruction, but adds a component that many camps seem to overlook.
"We also test the kids in the 40, vertical jump and quickness and agility drills," said the Bucs QB. "So, it's a great opportunity for them to get scouted. It's a great way for the kids to be seen."
And while being scouted is a key component to the camp, the focus is on more than just building better football players. It's about building better individuals that grow up and become contributors to society.
"We just want to make sure that when these kids leave that they understand that good hard work and discipline will carry them in no matter what they do," said Korun. "Because, maybe a half of a percent of them will go on to play football, but we want to make sure that the other 99.5% go on to do special things as well."
With the hard work and commitment that the players put in, they fun they are having while interacting with some their role models rubs off on the counselors.
"You can see the excitement in the kids' faces and the enjoyment that they've had here at camp," said Johnson. "We had some other Buccaneer players coming out, so the kids were excited about that. Marcus Jones, Joe Jurevicius and Martin Gramatica along with a couple of other guys have made the commitment, so it was a good time for the kids."
So whether it's s'mores or smothering defense, that's what summer camp is all about: having a good time.