The Paris youth football camp kicked off this past week at Allen field. The camp was open to all children between the grades of four through eight and led by the head of the youth football program Chip Keys.
“This camp is really special for the kids and it allows us a chance to teach them the proper fundamentals of football in a fun way” Keys said. “This kind of an opportunity wouldn’t be possible without the community that surrounds us.”
The focus of the camp was for children to be able to come out and learn the basics of football. This included everything from proper tackling to passing to footwork technique.
Keys, the former Paris High School and Eastern Illinois football standout, made sure that the best of the best would be made available for the kids that chose to come out to the camp.
“My wife Beth and I have been leading the youth football program for about five years now and I believe that we now have the most up-to-date information for these kids and the best people helping us,” Keys said. “Each coach that helped with this went through a three hour Heads-Up football certification course from the U.S.A. football website in order to provide the best technique and terminology for the campers.”
Not everything in the camp was merely vocabulary and technique, however. A lot of the focus was on having fun and being active as well, as fifth-grade camper Brody Bishop made clear.
When asked what his favorite thing about playing football was, Brody answered wholeheartedly “Running! I’m a quarterback but I just love to run the ball and play.”
The coaches were also focused on making sure that the kids had fun while playing the game of football.
“Football is a game at the end of the day and we want the kids to enjoy their time playing it,” assistant coach John Calhoun said. “We want to teach them hard work and coming together as a team, but at the same time make it fun for them.”
Another emphasis throughout the camp was the importance of learning the right words and phrases that come with Paris football and understanding how it all comes together on the field.
“We essentially use the same terminology and plays that, a lot of the times, the high school program will use,” assistant coach Chris Kessler said. “If they learn all of this at a younger age, they will already have an idea of what to expect when they reach the high school program.”
With all of the new phrases and techniques being used in the camp, it is easy to look past some of the physical aspects of the game. However, nothing is more important to Keys or the rest of the coaching staff than player safety. New helmets and shoulder pads were ordered for all the young players along with tackling dummies and other equipment. Funds were raised by the Paris community itself.
“Player safety is our number one concern out here, and new equipment was needed,” Keys said. “This couldn’t have been possible had it not been for the Paris community. Everyone who took the time to work concessions and other events, donating time and money to the program, they were the ones who made this possible and I truly want to say thank you to them.”
When asked about why he takes the time out of his schedule year in and year out, Keys simply had just one thing that he could say.
“I do this 100 percent for the children, and being out there teaching them the game of football.”