PARKERSBURG - Football lessons - and life lessons too.
That's what is being taught this week at an NFL High School Player Development/Army National Guard football camp at Parkersburg High School's Stadium Field.
A total of 175 high school football players from six area schools - PHS, Warren, St. Marys. Belpre, Parkersburg Catholic and Williamstown - were at the opening two-hour camp session Monday evening.
Members of the Warren and Belpre high school football teams join Parkersburg players in listening to former West Virginia University student assistant coach Paul Johnson direct line drills. (Photo by Jeff Baughan)
Each session begins and ends with a pair of five-minute talks by local West Virginia Army National Guard recruiters stationed in Parkersburg, discussing topics that affect high school students off more than on the football field. Tuesday's pre-practice subjects were time-management and being bullied.
''This is the first camp like this ever in West Virginia,'' said Big Red head football coach Don Reeves, who is in charge of the camp that runs through Friday. ''Here and Charleston were the two sites in the state that were picked for this.
''And for the first day (Monday), we were pretty happy with 175 kids showing up.''
Reeves was informed about these camps by Sgt. 1st Class Clay Edwards, a Parkersburg native and a local Army National Guard recruiter, ''six to eight months ago, and then he brought it in front of the SSAC this past winter, and we were picked as a site for it.''
And ''when this all occurred, then I had to hire the staff, and that's the best part of it, the kids actually pay nothing and the NFL pays for all the coaches to be brought in and to coach everything,'' said Reeves. 'So I was able to go out and get some of the best coaches I think in our area.''
Reeves' camp staff includes former head coaches Danny Tennant from Parkersburg Catholic and Bernie Buttrey from PHS and Williamstown, current Williamstown head coach Terry Smith and assistant Jeff Bayles, St. Marys head coach Jodi Mote, former Big Red player Paul Johnson from the University of Charleston as well as his own staff members Kevin Welsh, Sean Smith, Matt Kimes, Joey Lindamood, Dustin Ludolph and Paul Sparks.
Plus, ''part of the requirements'' for holding the camp, said Reeves, ''is that we teach them other things besides just on the football field. So each day, we start and finish with a couple topics.'' Monday, those relevant concerns were concussions, nutrition, leadership and school-related items.
Edwards said the player development camp is ''a way for the National Guard to get more involved in the community. Here, we try to teach them a lot of leadership skills, build up their moral character and establish a set of values, just so they can become better citizens.''
Edwards himself has been in the military for 18 years now, serving four years in the Marines with a 16-month tour of duty in Iraq.
''I like being involved with the kids here, trying to be a positive influence on them,'' he said. ''The NFL likes to use the National Guard to facilitate the camps because we are involved in our communities, and what a great way to kind of bring these resources to our communities. It took me about two years to bring this here, just trying to do something positive for this area.''