Free football camp offers healthy perspective

Over 150 players took part last week at Cooper

Jeff Robinson stood up in front of over 100 sets of watchful eyes and asked a question that, in one breath, had everything and nothing to do with football.

“How much water did you drink this morning?”

The answers, as he expected them to, varied.

The message, however, had no wavering to it.

Kids run through a drill during last weekends Jeff Robinson Football Camp at Robbinsdale Cooper High School. The camp, which was a part of the NFL’s Play 60 program, was free to all participants. (Sun staff photo by Nick Clark)

Kids run through a drill during last weekends Jeff Robinson Football Camp at Robbinsdale Cooper High School. The camp, which was a part of the NFL’s Play 60 program, was free to all participants. (Sun staff photo by Nick Clark)

“If you want to play out here, you have to make sure you are drinking enough water,” Robinson stated. “It is one of the most important things you will do today. Now go get some more water.”

On cue, the group leapt to their feet and sprinted off to the water stations set up on the far end of the Robbinsdale Cooper High School football stadium.

long the way, Robinson had more inquiries.

Did you eat breakfast?

How your those muscles feeling today?

Did you get enough sleep?

The real reasoning behind the conversations where his way of keeping tabs on a group of anxious kids ages 8 to 13 on hand for what was a free football camp under the National Football League’s Play 60 Program sponsored by both the Minnesota Vikings and the USA Football Program.

They kids spent the week at Cooper. This specific age group was on hand each day last week from 8:30 to 10:30 a.m., followed by high school aged players from 10:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m.

Each was offered breakfast and lunch, with no charge associated on either.

Each also received a t-shirt, and a five-day football tutorial that, in most cases, runs participants well over $100.

A pass sails through the air during a quarterback drill at the Jeff Robinson Football Camp at Robbinsdale Cooper High School last week. (Sun staff photo by Nick Clark)

A pass sails through the air during a quarterback drill at the Jeff Robinson Football Camp at Robbinsdale Cooper High School last week. (Sun staff photo by Nick Clark)

“It is about allowing kids to eliminate the social economic factors, and giving kids a chance to learn how to play this game,” said Robinson. “We have the meal program, so they are eating right, and they are running around doing healthy things, learning a little bit about life and having fun.”

The latter was obvious, as the younger aged campers eagerly moved from station to station to work in positional skills that touch every angle of a game.

What was subtle about the entire operation, however, was the way in which the instructors – many of then college football coaches – were teaching the technique.

Under USA Football protocol, that has changed in recent years.

“We are working on tackling the proper way, and just doing things in line with the way the game is evolving,” said Robinson. “That is important when you are talking about health issues and the things that everybody is trying to be conscientious about as far teaching the overall skills of the game.”

Robinson has had a front-row seat for how the game has changed over the year. He’ll be entering his 24th year as an advanced pro scout with the Vikings. His in-season duties center on scouting the following week’s opponent.

But in the summer months, these camps are where his heart is.

“This is my 13th year doing the camps, and I can’t tell you the impact they have had on my life,” he said. “Truly, there is no other place I’d rather be.”

This year’s camp had over 100 participants in the 8-13 age group, and another 60 high school players.

He held another one three weeks ago at Parade Stadium in Minneapolis, and the numbers were the same.

In both instances, the camp drew kids from all over the metro to come play some football. They left with much more.

“Without this opportunity, a lot of these kids wouldn’t be playing football,” he said. “This is our chance to step into their lives and not only teach them about football, but about life, and the importance of living a healthy life.”

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