Summer is the time for boys to run around, scrape their knees and enjoy their time off from school. Boys in Batavia do all of that through the Batavia Youth Football program, specifically the annual summer camp hosted this year from June 26 through 30 at Batavia High School.
Batavia football coach Dennis Piron said the camp is all about fun.
“I think the kids have an awful lot of fun because the camp’s counselors are our players,” Piron said. “They don’t set up and go through the motions. I think they generally have a lot of fun with the kids.”
Part of what makes the camp great in Piron’s eyes is how the kids just play football and learn to love the game. Piron described the camp like backyard football.
“There’s no structure,” Piron said. “They deserve to learn and not have someone telling them what to do. They figure out a lot on their own.”
Batavia Youth Football President Peter Corken agreed with Piron, stating the nature of the camp is what has made the camp and the Batavia football program, in general, successful.
At the camp, there are different divisions. First- and second-graders play two-hand touch football, while third- through sixth-graders play flag football. Seventh-graders don pads and play tackle football.
The kids get to learn the basics, from learning how to catch to practicing the three-point stance.
Steven Carlson, 8, Ryan Loria, 9, and David Ferris, 8, tried out defense and enjoyed it.
“It’s fun getting to tackle the things on the field,” Carlson said. “It [the camp] makes football a lot more fun.”
“It’s a great way to learn how to play,” Ferris added.
Throughout the camp, the boys compete in fun activities, such as the dirtiest shirt contest. There also are after-camp festivities, as well as forming teams to play in the Super Bowl Championship at the end of camp.
Safety is a major concern because of concussions and injuries. Corken said the younger boys don’t tackle, and the organization is partnered with the USA Football Heads Up Football Program and follows its guidelines to make the program as safe as possible.
At the camp, the boys will get the “occasional scrape and bump and get sweaty and dirty,” Piron said.
“But that’s what being a kid is all about,” he said.
Batavia High School junior Michael McFarland, who attended the Batavia Youth Football camp when he was a kid, was a coach this year for the third- and fourth-graders.
“It’s really cool [being a coach],” McFarland said. “The coaches always talk about how you’re a role model and the reason the kids are coming to the camp.”
The camp has been running for more than 17 years and has nurtured a love of football, friendships and a sense of community with the participants.
Piron said as much.
“I’m grateful we’ve been able to offer this to the community,” Piron said. “The kids have so much fun that they ask their parents to sign them up, rather than have their parents sign them up. That says a lot about how much these boys enjoy the camp.”
Batavia Youth Football programs are organized in cooperation with the Batavia Park District.
Nathan Wendt is a marketing intern for the Batavia Park District. Feedback on this column can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.