No Pads, No Problem for Bears Youth Football Camp
All-Pro former cornerback Allan Ellis is on hand to coach young players.
Jordan Wilbon stands at the imaginary line of scrimmage, bending his knees slightly with one foot just in front of the other. At the sound of the whistle, the 10-year-old football player sprints backwards, watching the coach and turning his hips in either direction as the coach instructed. After 20 yards, Wilbon coasts back and reels in a pass, jogging back to the end of the line to do the drill again.
As with all drills at the Chicago Bears Youth Football Camp, there was no hitting and no pads, only an emphasis on skills and fundamentals.
“It’s not intimidating,” said Camp Director Scott Baum, who has been teaching camps around the Chicago area for eight summers. “We have kids who have played football for five years and kids who have never played football in equipment out here.”
Held at the grass fields behind New Church, the Chicago Bears Camp tries to provide a safe environment for Glenview kids to learn the game of football.
Kids are exposed to every position on the field. According to Baum, most of them are too young to be typecast as a quarterback, lineman or free safety.
On one afternoon the camp will run drills specific to playing the offensive line while the next day might involve wide receiver techniques.
“It’s good instruction,” said Baum, who’s also the head football coach at Niles West. “You learn a little bit of everything and we try to make it fun.”
Other training tools are incorporated to give campers a break from the heat. On Tuesday, the campers watched a video explaining why spearing – tackling a player by leading with your helmet – is dangerous and less effective.
“They’re giving me some skills I need to learn because I’m starting tackle football,” said Wilbon, a fifth-grader at Glen Grove Elementary School. “I came here to learn about some of the new things that I’m going to need to use for football.”
The camp also brings in former Bears players to talk about their experiences in the NFL and the importance of having skills that will help in life off the field.
Allan Ellis, a former All-Pro cornerback for the Bears in the 1970s, spoke about how every practice drill had a purpose and eventually those situations would show up in a game.
“A lot of these guys aren’t going to play football down the line, but all these athletic skills can be utilized in other sports,” Ellis said. “We also want to project character toward life and the educational aspects of being a great athlete.”
Glenview’s camp wraps up tomorrow with Super Bowl Friday and skill challenges. But the hope is that the techniques, fundamentals and life lessons taught during the past five days will stick with campers through their childhood.
“Kids can get turned off from sports right away. But this is a great way because somehow they are all put in a role to have some success, whether it be in games, speed drills, throwing drills, punting or kicking,” Baum said. “It’s a great opportunity for a kid to leave here liking football more than when he came in.”