<span style="">One day before departing for a well-deserved vacation, New Orleans Saints Head Coach Sean Payton had one more important item on his schedule that he wanted to accomplish before heading out: his annual skills football camp for high school students.
On Friday, 125 high schoolers from the Gulf South descended on the Saints' practice facility for a free camp designed by Payton and run successfully with the assistance of the Saints' assistant coaching staff and selected local youth coaches. The camp was supported with a generous grant from the NFL Youth Football Fund, which is dedicated to enhancing and promoting the positive aspects of youth football on a local, national and international level.
The Saints coaches put as much passion and devotion into their drills and teaching today as they do during a typical practice sessions with their players. There was teaching, corrections, and above all, encouragement for the campers.
The camp, set up by Saints Director of Youth Programs Jason Trosclair and his staff, is a non-contact camp designed to provide professional instruction for each skill position. The camp also addressed the fundamentals and techniques of placekicking.
One of the high schoolers, Cody Mills from Picayune, Mississippi, said that the entire day was an inspirational one and something he was thankful for. "This is tremendous. To be honest with you, I can't believe how great it is to be out here getting instruction and tips from professional coaches, especially from my favorite team."
Mills, a 16-year old wide receiver, said the pointers he received today not only serve as positive reinforcements to what his current high school coaches have taught to him, but some of the new tips he learned today have also given him new techniques to work with as he continues to hone his skills. "I think some of the things I learned about running routes and how to properly set your feet and hands is definitely going to help me," Mills said.
Payton, with two children of his own, takes pride in providing the platform for the youngsters to gain confidence and learn from the best in the business. However, Payton's greatest impact probably was made when he addressed the campers in the Saints' auditorium after lunch for a life skills presentation. In his speech Payton stressed the importance that education plays in opening doors to future opportunities, and conversely how a lack of education closes doors that otherwise could be open.
"Don't let people and what they say be the determining factor," said Payton to the campers. "You, ultimately, are responsible for what direction you're headed. Don't let people that don't have the same drive and aspirations and goals that you do deter you from what you want to accomplish. It's not always going to be easy, but trust me, it will be worth it."
Following Payton's seminar, the campers went back onto the practice fields and took part in stretching drills, one-on-ones with the quarterbacks working with the wide receivers and another group working with running backs and tight ends. The teams were then broken up into 7-on-7 teams, split by age groups ranging from 13-15 year olds and 16-18 year olds.
"It's great," Payton said. "It's great to see these kids, with their lives moving fast, take the time to come out here and learn and get better. The look in their eyes makes it all worthwhile."