By Drew Terhall
GREENVILLE — The 29th annual Matt Light All-Conference Football Camp took place at Greenville’s Miami Valley Hospital North Stadium at Harmon Field on June 20 and 21. The camp is put on by the Light Foundation, founded by former New England Patriot and three-time Super Bowl Champion Matt Light and his wife Susie.
The camp is free for the kids to attend. All of the finances for the camp are taken care of through donations from local businesses and other foundations. Light said he loves this time of year and to be able to see the kids enjoy the camp.
“I get to this moment every year and I think about how thankful I am for the efforts of our staff and the work they put into it and the sponsors. These kids don’t pay a dime to be here,” Light said. “They’re here because they love the game. We’re able to afford this because we have great support from the community and sponsors and these coaches giving up their time.”
This year, the camp brought in a total of 330 kids between the ages of 7 and 13. It is the most kids the camp has ever had. Only 250 kids between second and sixth grade participate in the drills. The other 80 kids in grades seventh and eighth are there to help the coaches run the drills. They registered under the mentor program, Light’s Leaders. The older kids get a chance to help their younger peers learn the game of football and gain valuable experience in being a leader.
To help bring in more kids, the foundation applied for a grant through the Bill Belichick Foundation. The Light Foundation was granted a $10,000 stipend from the Belichick Foundation.
“Being out of the game awhile and to still have support from a guy like Bill and from all the rest of the people who sponsor this camp is truly amazing. Bill has impacted the lives of countless people through his work and what he’s done and his passion. The fact he continues to give back is pretty impressive,” Light said.
The older kids help out football coaches from all over the area. Coaches from the Dayton area come out to help coach the camp. The head coach of the camp is Greenville High School’s Athletic Director Aaron Shaffer.
The campers go through many different drills to learn about the game of football. They work on double team blocking to learning how to run different routes. Quarterbacks learn where to hit their receivers on the different routes. Light said he has seen a lot of improvement in the campers.
There is also more to learn at the camp than just football. Light said this a chance for kids to learn about leadership skills and about basic respect, something he tries to teach kids through Light’s Leaders.
“Yes, this is about football. Yes, we love to compete. But it’s much more than that. It’s about picking up their trash, looking coaches in the eye, having respect and saying thank you. Just appreciating the opportunities they get. We do that now with these Light Leaders, who are seventh and eighth graders, that may have been in this camp participating. Now, they’re assisting these coaches,” Light said.
Year one with the older kids have been a success so far. There have already been talks on how to get them more involved with the camp from a leadership standpoint next year. Light said coaches have told him they want to get to the camp earlier on day one to talk to the older kids on what drills they want to run so they are all on the same page. They all are thinking about having different shirts for the Light Leaders to wear so they are more identifiable.
Light has seen the value the older kids bring to the camp.
”It’s one thing to have a coach talk to you about technique. It’s something different when a peer, somebody closer to your age, is saying, ‘Hey, let me show you this.’ It’s a little bit easier to get correction or instruction from somebody your age,” Light said. “I’m watching these leaders out here working with these kids saying, ‘Hey, get your foot like this,’ or ‘Make sure you stay low.’ It’s awesome, they’re taking it to heart.”
Contact Daily Advocate Sports Editor Drew Terhall at [email protected].