Perhaps the only thing more gratifying than connecting the past with the present is the connection between the present and the future. And if the New Canaan Rams youth football camp is any indication, the future looks very bright indeed.
More than 90 future Rams gathered this past week at Water Tower turf field to receive instruction from current NCHS varsity football players at Rams Camp, a four day instructional program that teaches the basic principles of head coach Lou Marinelli’s system.
“As the head coach I like to have a seamless program from third right up through twelfth grade,” Marinelli told NewCanaanite.com. “The terminology is the same. And you’ll see when they start to put in some plays that it’s very similar to what we do.”
The camp is in its second year, and is the brainchild of New Canaan assistant coaches Chris Silvestri, Johnny Marinelli and Dante Correnty, who wanted to take previous incarnations of youth camps and take it to another level. The high school coaches enlisted the help of current athletes as well as the youth coaches to make a cohesive, fundamentals-based program that was mutually beneficial to both the younger and older football players.
“You look at why New Canaan has been successful you have to look at the youth program and how many kids are coming,” Silvestri said. “These kids know these fundamentals when they hit their freshman year, so we can just plug and go. Our kids are teaching the drills, and they have to really think about teaching it so it helps cement them in their minds when we do it come summer.”
The camp focuses on the “fun” of fundamentals, with engaging drills teaching proper techniques of tackling, ball handling, blocking and pass coverage. The campers also break down into 7-on-7 touch football games to put the drills into competitive situations. And the instruction and encouragement from familiar names like Alex LaPolice, Zach Allen and Mike Collins gives the kids an up-close-and-personal experience with local heroes, helping foster an interest and appreciation for the sport itself.
“For the campers, these are the Eli Mannings and the Michael Strahans, because they see them play on Friday nights,” Marinelli said. “It only serves as more of a reminder for our guys that whether you want to or not, you’re a role model. So it’s a win-win on a lot of different levels.”
“They make the camp, there’s no doubt about it,” Silvestri said of the varsity athletes, who are currently hosting the seventh annual Grip It & Rip It 7-on-7 football competition. “Once you mix in some of these players who they see Friday night under the lights and now they’re working with them, it’s nice. They get to actually know the player, as well as admire him from afar.”