Fun ‘ n games on the gridiron
The 32 youths were participating Saturday in a skills and fundamentals football camp run by the Traverse City Wolves semi-pro players and coaches. In addition to learning some of the fundamentals and winning T-shirts, youths ages 8 to 14 also got a chance to scrimmage, have lunch and get autographs.
Steve Loucks, a Suttons Bay middle school football coach and former Norseman, watched as his son Michael participated.
“I think it’s great, I think it’s a fun time,” Loucks said. “They got to see what it looks like when you get older, if you work hard and keep at it, good things will come from it.”
“It’s good for the kids to hear it from a player rather than having another coach come out and do it,” he said. “I think it means a little bit more.
“It kind of makes them feel like they are a part of the team at least for a few hours.”
The four-hour camp, which was briefly interrupted by a rain, was spearheaded by former Suttons Bay standout Rich Micham. The 1989 grad is the head coach of the Wolves.
“It’s cool to see him doing well and having success with it,” said Loucks, a 1991 grad. “Rick was one of my role models growing up.
“Being with the players, saying ‘Hi’ and being able to get to know some of them was fun,” said Evan DeLoy, an 8-year-old third grader at Traverse City’s Cherry Knoll Elementary School.
Alex Villega, a 12-year-old from Elk Rapids, admitted he had lots of fun.
He made the catch of the day when he hauled in a long bomb from Matt Ohlert of the Wolves in the bomb drill.
“It feels good to be coached by these players,” said Villega, who made the diving catch to complete a 50-yard pass play.
DeLoy also said he learned a lot of things about catching and throwing the football.
Brayden Opie, an 8-year-old Suttons Bay third grader, liked the idea of throwing the football and “learning how to kick field goals. And it was good to see the Wolves.”
Micham said he and the Wolves enjoyed giving something back to the area kids.
“It seemed like the kids were having fun and that’s what it’s all about,” Micham said. “The goal was to get them interested in the sport and having fun with it.
“Some of these kids who haven’t played yet might be a little afraid and not understand the game. We just wanted them to know how much fun it is and teach them the fundamentals to get started.”
Micham is making plans with Suttons Bay head coach Joe Trudeau to make the skills camp an annual summer event.
“That’s my goal,” Micham said. “I’m going to help out the Norsemen whenever I can.
“If we can make this a yearly thing and get this thing to grow into something big, it would be a great fundraiser every year and hopefully something we can rely on in the future.”
Campers paid $40 each. Proceeds, after the costs of lunch and T-shirts, were earmarked for the Suttons Bay football program.
“I’m real happy with the turnout considering we didn’t publicize it a whole lot,” Trudeau said. “I was hoping for 25 or more.”
Players enjoyed their role in the camp, too.
“I love this,” said Pete Boyles, a 46-year-old defensive back and senior member of the Wolves who led a big group discussion. “It charges me up.
“I’ll come out of here with a lot of energy.”
Boyles said having fun was the No. 1 priority.
“The most import thing is that they are having fun,” he said. “That bomb drill is just pure fun and conditioning.
“It adds nothing to your football skills.”
Defensive end Evan Gattin, who also coaches Pop Warner football, agreed with Boyles about the fun parts.
“As long as the kids can touch the ball, they’re having fun,” said Gattin. “They don’t want the basics or the fundamentals.
“They want to run around and play football and eat food. Who doesn’t love food?”