While Weatherford High School’s football players continue prepping for the 2019 season, Kangaroos’ Head Coach Billy Mathis and company have also taken time out to help secure the program’s future.
WISD kicked off its Kangaroo Youth Football Camp Monday afternoon (which runs through Thursday), giving dozens of future Roos their first chance to get a taste of life as a Weatherford varsity football player.
For some kids, the camp has served as their first exposure to the demands of high school football, a fact Mathis took into account when working to balance competition and fun within the event’s structure.
“A lot of these kids have never played football before, or have only for a year or two,” Mathis said.
“Fundamentals are the number one thing we worked on [Monday]. If we’re fundamentally sound, we’re way ahead of the game.
“We make it fun for the kids too, but we have a competitive nature about it. We make sure they know we’re here to compete. They’re gonna break down just like the high school kids, they’re gonna take a knee just like the high school kids.
“Everything we do at the camp is an exact replica of what we do with our varsity football team.”
Rain kept campers off WHS’ practice field, however, the poor weather did not dampen the spirits of those in attendance, who instead got to work in the school’s Multipurpose Activity Center.
There, camp goers rotated through a series of offensive, defensive and special teams stations.
“Offensively, we teach catching the ball properly, how to throw a ball, how to run routes, the correct way to turn after you catch a ball,” Mathis said.
“Defensively, we go through tackling stations. In those stations we really work with the kids on making sure they keep their heads out of the tackle. That’s the first thing we want to teach, everybody being on the same page here in Weatherford from first grade up to the seniors. We work with the youth associations and Optimist Club [teaching to] lead with the shoulder. We teach special teams [such as] how to punt and kick properly.”
While kids in attendance reap the benefits of working with the high school coaches, Mathis was quick to note that he and his staff themselves also benefit immensely from holding the camp.
“Anytime you can build a good relationship with young kids, they’re more likely to come ask you questions,” Mathis said.
“They’re more likely to feel comfortable so they’re not scared to go play football or go compete.
“A lot of kids are apprehensive because this is new to them, but we get them out here, get to know them before they get to high school or even junior high, so when they are with us [in high school], you’ve already got that level of trust with them. If a kid trusts you, you’ve already got a leg up.”
Even more, events like Weatherford’s Youth Football Camp help instill a sense of ownership in Weatherford football among its future players, Mathis said.
“It’s fun to see those kids wearing the football camp shirts at the games on Friday nights,” Mathis said.
“I want these kids to have a desire to put that Kangaroo on the side of their helmets, put that sticker on the back of their car.
“The parents that have that community pride, getting these kids up here doing these kinds of things gives those kids a sense of pride, because it gives them a little bit of ownership of what we do.”