Looking toward the future and inspiring their biggest supporters in the stands come fall, Bonney Lake High opened up its youth football camp last week.
At the high school, kids from the community came out to participate in the Panthers camp, getting an up-close experience in what it takes to be a football player for Bonney Lake. With laughter amongst the coaches — Bonney Lake’s juniors and seniors from the football team — and with a heavy dose of determination from campers, this is what was envisioned from the program’s start.
“The camp stuff (is) two-fold. One, it’s to get the kids in the community to just fall in love with football and Bonney Lake (High School),” Bonney Lake coach Jason Silbaugh said.
The other is to create an experience that is long-lasting and will benefit both the future of the Bonney Lake football team and the community.
“When I was a kid, I really looked up to the adults and teenagers who played football,” running back Ehan Kopke said. “(Coming) back and helping all these kids — I see myself out there trying to be a better football player.”
The Panther football program and Silbaugh haven’t created anything new with this concept. What they have done is look beyond with just creating a connection between the school and program with the younger generation of Bonney Lake.
“It feels really good because football is a great sport, as it helps distract (you) from worldly events outside of football,” Kopke added.
If that was the goal alone, creating a one-way directed program, then the Panthers have done that. But that wasn’t the goal at all — at least not entirely.
“The other reason is because it’s a lot for our kids — our players,” Silbaugh said. “For our kids, it’s great that they can be in the community because kids look up to them and they’re role models. What it means is when you walk out the doors of Bonney Lake high school that people are looking at you — they want to see how you act.”
Under the watchful eyes of the Panther football team, campers put forth more effort than necessary during drills, often leading to wonderful failures and incredible successes, all while bringing laughter and cheer from the players.
Effort put forward is worth more than anything else in this game. It’s all Silbaugh envisioned with this camp at the high school.
“As long as they love the game and put forth effort, that’s all that we’re trying to pass on to them,” linebacker Casey Todd said. “Just keep working hard, that’s all that matters.”
But also have fun, too, as it was plain to see amongst the Bonney Lake football players who coach at the camp. It was a hard week for the Panthers: an early morning start for the kids camp, finishing with an evening practice for the team.
Yet not one Panther football player at the camp cared about all that hard work, all that time spent away from actually starting up their summer vacations. It just didn’t matter to these players here because football is a passion for Bonney Lake.
One that has been shared with the youth of the community.
“Our players probably have more fun than the campers do,” Silbaugh joked. “It fires you up as a competitor when you see these (campers) become passionate about football.”