For one day, 29 members of the Smith-Cotton varsity football team went from players to coaches.
The Tigers were on the field Wednesday to help youth football players learn the fundamentals of the game in the Sedalia Youth Football camp.
“It brings back memories of when I was a little kid,” said Smith-Cotton senior lineman Aaron Walters
Youth players went through drills from blocking and tackling to taking hand-offs and catching passes. At the end of the one-day camp, players broke off to play touch football games.
“We want them to learn the basic skills,” said Sedalia Youth Football commissioner Jimmy Brown. “How to play football with discipline and learning how to tackle with their heads up. All the drills like that are important for them to be safe.”
Walters and senior tight end and defensive end Austin LaBoube took youth players through a drill where they got around a blocker and made a tackle.
“Something we do when we play is try to rip through these guys because when they have their hands on us we want to just rip them off of us,” Walters said. “We’re trying to get that in their hands because when they have an opponents hands on them it’s hard to get through.”
Among the approximately 150 youth players at the camp were some from out of town.
“We had a lot of out of town teams that play in our league and a lot of kids from those teams have come in and get in the camp,” Brown said.
Beyond the fundamentals and techniques, the youth players picked something else up too.
“After a while they just get going and have fun with it,” LaBoube said.
And that is something Smith-Cotton varsity coach Mark Johnson was hoping the younger players would take away from the camp.
“I want them to get out of it that football’s fun,” Johnson said. “It’s that time of year, it’s the beginning of the season, everyone should be excited about the season. I think all the kids out here are having a good time.”
For the varsity players it was also a chance to see many of the same football drills from a different perspective.
“When you teach someone you have to know what you’re doing in the first place and then it gets better from there,” LaBoube said.
Johnson felt his players got a lot out of teaching at the camp.
“It’s fun for these kids to come out and work with these kids and show them a little bit what they learned and it also gives back to our community,” he said.
For the Tigers varsity players it has been a summer of bonding. Recently 49 players traveled to Camp Clark in Nevada, Mo. and Camp Crowder in Neosho for a two-day leadership retreat.
“We were on a bus for six or seven hours together and then in a barracks together,” Johnson said. “We had an obstacle course where you had to get together to solve problems. What it does is you see who your leaders are.”
Walters said the retreat helped bring the team closer together.
“We have a couple more seniors and it seems like everyone is a little more disciplined this year,” he said. “We’ve been doing a lot more together as a team this year than we were last year.”