County gets a leg up on football with spring program
May 25, 2012 (Menafn - The Capital - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --For most high school football players, the sound of the final whistle in the fall symbolizes an end of football until August.
For the fifth consecutive spring, thanks to the efforts of former North County coach Gary Liddick and with some help from the National Football League and the National Guard, Anne Arundel County's players have a forum where they can gather and work on their fundamental skills in an organized manner.
The High School Player Development program is an initiative sponsored by the National Football League and has been active throughout the county since 2007. This year, more than 175 athletes representing Old Mill, Glen Burnie, Meade, Northeast, Southern and Broadneck participated at Lindale Middle School with cooperation from the Andover Apaches Youth Organization.
"Basically, this is Anne Arundel County's version of spring football," Broadneck coach Rob Harris said. "We get all the schools here and a chance to work on their fundamentals and things that we are not normally allowed to do. The NFL sponsors it and provides insurance. It gives these kids a great avenue to get out here working and seeing their friends from other schools, their friends from their schools and just get after it for a little bit. It's just a wonderful program."
Players come out and rotate through a variety of stations guided by the Vanderbilt University football program, which is the provider of this year's practice plan. They spend about an hour on each side of the ball for four consecutive nights.
The camp is free and open to rising sophomores, juniors and seniors looking to improve their games. There is no contact, and players do not wear pads.
"I came out because last year was my first year playing for Northeast, so I need to learn the fundamentals," said Ryan Caines, an aspiring sophomore cornerback. "I came out here to work on simple things like footwork and man coverage."
Each player gets a uniform shirt. Nike, the official provider of NFL jerseys, provided this year's. In addition, the players are provided with an agenda book put together by the National Guard that only has a calendar, but useful study and exam-taking tips. It also gives clear guidelines on how to be eligible to play in the NCAA.
"It's a youth program we support," Sergeant Major Frank Ristaino said. "We provide the resources for the coaches and the players to use. We are a community-based organization, and this program is a community-based project."
An additional positive of the program is the camaraderie it develops between the players and coaches.
"One of the reasons I really wanted to have this camp in Anne Arundel County was to bring everybody together," Liddick said. "The kids are friendly, they get along and they are out here for the same reason and the same goal. They are learning at the same time and getting their skills and getting them ready for August. Even the coaches started coming together and really got to know each other. I think it really helped the atmosphere and the attitude in the county."
Baltimore Ravens running back Ray Rice, a veteran of the HSPD program from his youth days in New Jersey, recently visited Old Mill and its football program.
"HSPD is a great program as it gives us coaches a chance to get out and work with these kids," Patriots coach Chad McCormack said. "It's been a long time since the football season, so everyone is sort of excited to be out here. We get to see how our kids are developing, and we get to see some kids we haven't gotten to see before."
For players, it provides valuable experience and insights for how to be successful on and off the football field.
"I chose to get better and help my skills," said Old Mill's James Venerable, a potential sophomore cornerback. "It is a good experience. You get to meet new people, become friends with them and still be competitive on the field."
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