Despite having the largest number of attendees in the camp’s history, the Jaguar Kids Football Camp at Emerald Ridge High last week went off without a hitch.
The camp this year drew quite the crowd, as both the main football field and the one between the high school and Glacier View Junior High were packed. A total of 217 kids — 182 at football camp, 35 at cheer camp — kids packed the school’s grounds to get experience working with the stars of the Emerald Ridge football team.
“Man, they love it,” co-coach Darren Erath said as he oversaw kids from the area as well as those who traveled as far north as Everett with some from Idaho and Oregon as well. “We have kids coming all over the state here at the camp — it’s incredible how much they respond to the (player-coaches).”
We have kids coming all over the state here at the camp – it’s incredible how much they respond to the (player-coaches).
Emerald Ridge co-coach Darren Erath
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The player-coaches were the stars for the kids at camp as every play during the Wednesday “competition day” brought a swarm of campers surrounding players, from starting quarterback Logan Skoda to linebacker Brian Wortham.
“Everyone wants to be a quarterback,” backup quarterback Tommy Sauressig said. “We want to them to have fun at camp, but we also want to teach them that it’s about working as a team.”
And being on a team, ego often has to take a backseat to what’s best for the whole, not just the individual.
“We want to let them know that there are other position that they might think about playing (yet), so it’s showing them there’s more to the game,” Sauressig said.
But the lessons go beyond the football field. Ask any of the coaches on the ER staff and it’s the same statement each time: “It’s not about the wins and losses. It’s not about the championships, it’s about making championship individuals.”
Football can teach many of these kids about life. That life isn’t easy, but if you work hard, you can overcome almost anything.
It’s the mindset that the coaching staff has set as it seeks to change the tone of the program, and in the end, help put more of the spotlight on the school.
“Football can teach many of these kids about life. That life isn’t easy, but if you work hard, you can overcome almost anything,” Wortham said. “When these kids see me believe it or someone like (Andrew) Boston believe in it, they respond to it and start to take that belief, too.”
Tucked away on the northeast end of the football field, about three dozen future Jaguar cheer squad members’ energy and noise often outmatched that of the football camp.
“I went to camp when I was little, but I decided I didn’t like it,” Jayda Dorscher said.
But those past experiences have influenced many of the cheer coaches to make this Jaguar camp feel special to each girl there, to make them truly a member of the Emerald Ridge High cheer squad.
“It’s kind of cool to have a lot of the girls look up to you, as I looked up to many of the cheerleaders growing up,” Dorscher added. “It’s really cool to connect with them because they all have that one person they want to connect with — that one person they want to look up to.”
The cheer and football camps have always been a joint project as Emerald Ridge football staff and cheer coach Cassandra Zancanella have used the event to bring more spirit to the school and the surrounding community.
“It’s really cute. I love watching them grow,” cheer captain Maddy Latoc said. “Every year I’ve come to work this thing, I’ve gotten to close to many of (the campers).”
Often the biggest support piece a team has comes from those on the cheer team, as the Jaguar cheerleaders can turn a quiet night in the stands into a frenzied rally behind Emerald Ridge sports.
“It was really exciting to be able to cheer on my team (last year),” Kylee Hayes said. “With the little girls, it’s nice to see them starting young. It’s a good start into (cheerleading), and it’s nice to come out to work with them.”
As the Jaguar Kids Football Camp grew to its largest one yet, the themes and results have been the same: Have fun, learn the sport, and especially, love the life you have been given. For the campers it’s an exciting time.
For the player-coaches, it means so much more.
“I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else,” Boston said. “It’s our chance to be out here teaching these kids what it means to be an Emerald Ridge (athlete).”