Ryker Thompson lives and breathes football. The 13-year-old from Parker recently came back from shoulder surgery and at a Parker Hawks youth football camp July 17, Thompson said he already has his …
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Ryker Thompson lives and breathes football.
The 13-year-old from Parker recently came back from shoulder surgery and at a Parker Hawks youth football camp July 17, Thompson said he already has his sights set on winning an Arapahoe Youth League Super Bowl. Last year, his team came up short in the final round.
“I’m just trying to be the best one out here,” Thompson said.
The sun fell behind the mountains as the two waves of kids transitioned, but not before a group photo of all 327 of them together. Thompson was one of the athletes at what was day three of the four-day Parker Hawks pre-season training camp. Athletes from throughout the town — and even a few from Castle Rock to Aurora, Elizabeth to Highlands Ranch, and everywhere in between — converged on the hill at EchoPark Stadium to get back into football.
For years, each head football coach would host their own youth camp. This is just the second year it has been hosted by the Parker Hawks, the town’s youth football program for ages 7 to 13.
For Thompson, who plays linebacker and wide receiver, it was a chance to lay a hit on his friends again. But this camp is also one of the only chances that local players will have to train with coaching staffs from all four Parker high schools at once. And it’s a rare collaboration between crosstown rival head coaches to lay the groundwork for a stronger football identity in Parker.
Ponderosa head coach Jaron Cohen said it’s not about convincing kids their school is the best, it’s about showing them who they are as men.
“Although we’re all competitive guys, at the end of the day there’s a brotherhood of coaches,” Cohen said. “I really feel the more successful kids are in a sport by learning how to play the right way, the longer they’re going to stay with it, and it’s a way to keep kids in the sport.”
Jeremy Fields, director of the Parker Hawks football program, said football begins and ends with players voluntarily signing on to a culture or a coach’s style. At this camp, the players were not the ones being showcased — it was the coaches.
“Coaches have the opportunity to expose kids to the type of culture or program they have,” Fields said. “That’s how I’ve conveyed it to these coaches: You’re not recruiting kids, but you’re standing up who you are as a man and what your program looks like. That’s the beauty of this. They all have the opportunity to do that.”
At one station, players were catching passes from volunteer quarterbacks from Legend High School. After about 15 minutes, each group of 10 or so campers rotated to the next coach with a different approach to the game.
“It’s unparalleled. Other organizations…that have seen what we’re doing and tried to emulate it are unable to because these coaches aren’t willing to collaborate because they think they’re infringing on each other’s territories or players,” Fields said. “Our coaches have come together, as a community, to say `We are out here in the best interests of the sport. We want to see this sport thrive.’”
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