GREENVILLE – The 25th annual Matt Light All-Conference Football Camp wrapped up in Greenville on Tuesday with Camp Director Larry Masters retiring after a quarter century of leadership.
This year’s camp was one of the biggest in its history with 206 boys and girls attending the free two-day event at Harmon Field in Greenville. Most of the campers, who ranged from 8 to 14 years old, were from Darke and surrounding counties, but some traveled hundreds of miles to participate.
“I think they did well,” Masters said. “They’ve been good the last few years. We’re really happy with their attitude and their work ethic. They respond pretty well to the coaches. So I’ve been real happy in recent years, and this crew this year was a good one too.”
Masters ran the camp with help from Matt Light, a Greenville native and three-time Super Bowl champion with the New England Patriots, plus many high school football coaches on Harmon Field’s artificial turf.
Each of the campers learned about an offensive and defensive position, competed in individual and team competitions and heard from guest speakers.
“You’re going to come, you’re going to have fun, you get to work on some football, you’re going to get to play some games and compete, and that’s how football should be,” Light said. “Anything that we do through the Light Foundation, everything comes with a lesson. Everything comes with some responsibility and some core values so to speak that these kids need today.”
Masters originally started the camp then partnered with the Light Foundation, which helped it attract an even larger group of young athletes.
“I had no vision of anything like this when I started,” Masters said. “But it just kind of snowballed and kept growing. And I always say this, the businesses in this town, the businessmen and the businesswomen, have been so terrific every time I go in and ask them for money to help put this camp on. As you know, it’s a free camp, and without them we couldn’t do it. Then a few years ago, maybe 10, Matt Light comes along and his Light Foundation wants to get involved and so it starts growing even more. So there’s a lot of people to thank.”
Through donations from local businesses, the camp is free to each of the participants. Each of the campers received instruction from coaches, a T-shirt and had a chance to win prizes.
“You get a lot, I think, for free,” Masters said. “I don’t know where else you go to get anything like what we offer here. I just don’t know where it would be so I’m pretty proud of that.”
While a lot of people have made the camp special, Light said Masters has been the heart of it for the past 25 years.
“When you get to a milestone like this, you know, you’re just very reflective,” Light said. “We formed a great partnership with Larry, something that he started in 1994. When we wanted to do a football camp, we said, ‘Why ever compete with something that’s been as successful as what Coach Masters put together?’ So we joined forces with him, and together we’ve gotten it to this point, but it’s always been his drive and passion that have made this camp what it is.
“And what it really is is an unbelievable resource for the community where parents aren’t asked to pay anything, kids aren’t asked to go out and fund raise or do anything to be able to come here. Any kid in the area, as long as they get their application in on time, can take part in it. And we had kids from Colorado, from southern Indiana, from the Dayton area, I mean from all over the place that were able to take part in this. It’s just an awesome resource to be a part of and a great thing for this community.”
More than 3,000 kids have participated in the camp the past 25 years, Masters said. He hopes they gained some football knowledge and had some fun while doing so.
“I told them, at the end there I said, ‘I hope you had fun and along the way of having fun at this camp that you learned some football as well, made some friends.’ Those are the important things,” Masters said.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4312. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.