Pro Athletes Teach Football to Duarte Youth at Free Camp

  • Duarte Dispatch
    March 30, 2016 Written by: Admin 
    Pro Athletes Teach Football to Duarte Youth at Free Camp

    DUARTE >> On March 26, 2016, the football field at Duarte High School was packed with football players of all ages, learning lessons and gaining motivation from a handful of the school’s most successful former athletes.

    It was billed as the community’s first Pro Day Football Camp for youngsters from the Duarte area and 184 youths, ages 5 through 17, participated under the lights that Saturday night, March 26.

    “The motivation was to get all the talented people from the community, those who have been somewhat successful in sports, to come back and help the kids understand what it takes to succeed not only in sports, but in life,” said London Lee, a former Duarte Falcon who coordinated the camp along with Duarte USD Board President Ken Bell and Theresa Barnes of the Duarte Junior Falcons football program.

    Lee, now a youth coach who played at Bakersfield City College and La Verne University after leaving Duarte, reached out to current NFL players Michael Harris (Minnesota Vikings, UCLA) and Eric Rogers (San Francisco 49ers, CFL, Cal Lutheran), and current Stanford strength coach Darius Reece.

    “The first thing we did was to see if these successful pro athletes and coach would be able to come back to the community to share their experiences, and they were very positive about the project,” said Lee. “That helped make this a major success.”

    In addition to Lee, Rogers, Reece and Harris, a group of former players at Duarte High School came back to help staff the 3-hour camp, which consisted of four major stations: Offensive and Defensive Linemen; Skills for wide receivers and defensive backs; tackling for all positions, and footwork for all technique and speed.

    Every participant rotated through all four stations. Lee explained, “We kept it moving, rarely stopping, which helped show the youngsters how fast-paced things are at a higher level. You have to continue and keep playing, even when you are tired if you want to compete. That was the message that Eric, Darius and Michael were sharing with the kids.”

    The camp format included higher level skills and competitive events for the older kids, as well as a chance to find the fun aspects in football for those at the lower range of the age spectrum.

    “This was a chance for the young people of the community to see up-close and personal the work ethic and the dedication that helped these athletes succeed,” said Lee.

    Among the 184 attendees were a few aspiring female football players, and one asked Harris this question: “Do you think there will ever be female players in the NFL?” Harris had this response: “You could be the first one, if you work hard and want it enough.”

    Considering the NFL’s current push towards gender diversity in coaching, officiating and front office positions, Harris’ response could be prophetic.

    Although just a few days had passed since the camp, Lee said that the organizers (himself, Bell and Barnes) definitely hope to continue to grow the camp for the future.

    “Anything you’re going to do to help the community has to start with the youth,” he said.

    Pro Day Duarte