Josh Smalley, Orangefield Bobcats Athletic Director and football coach, observes eight-year-old Landon Miller as the youth demonstrates the proper grip, arm motion and footwork to pass the football on Tuesday morning in Orangefield. Approximately 80 children, who are entering second-grade through ninth-grade, participated in the annual Orangefield Bobcats Football Camp which began Monday and ends Wednesday. Photo by Tommy Mann Jr.

Tommy Mann – For The Record

The future of Bobcats football program looks bright based on the number of attendees at a recent football camp.

Approximately 80 youth are taking part in the annual Orangefield Bobcats Football Camp to learn more about a sport they love and receive instruction and guidance from coaches of the Orangefield Independent School District. The yearly camp, which spans three days and is open to youth entering second-grade through entering ninth-grade, began Monday morning and concludes (Wednesday).

“Orangefield has done this camp for as long as I can remember, even when I was just an assistant here in Orangefield in 2006,” said Josh Smalley, atheltic director of Orangefield ISD and Bobcats head football coach. “It’s definitely something that the other coaches and I have wanted to continue every year.”

Smalley said there are many benefits to holding the annual three-day camp every summer for not only the youth attending the camp, but for the coaches as well.

“It gives us the opportunity to meet the kids in the community and for them to meet us,” he added. “We get to teach them the fundamentals about football and have fun as well. Plus, the UIL allows freshmen to take part in this camp and that lets us get an early look at those kids and get to them a little before two-a-day practices start next week.”

Those attending the camp are divided into age groups and and experience levels and instruction is based upon each. One drill had the more experienced campers learning learning coverage techniques and how to react coverage-wise to which direction the ball goes, whereas younger athletes learned proper techniques for passing, running, catching and tackling.

“There is a lot of negativity toward football these days, and that is why we want to make sure every one of these kids learn the proper ways to do everything,” Smalley explained. “It can all be done safely and still be fun, and that’s important.”

Many of the youth attending the three-day football camp have participated many times, including 14-year-old Cooper Lowe, who has attended the camp since he was in elementary school.

Cooper, who played tailback in junior high, is an incoming freshman at Orangefield High School. He said he looks forward to attending the camp every year and is especially excited this year.

“I always like how fun the coaches make the camp,” Cooper said. “They have a desire to teach us the things we need to be taught to make sure we are safe and that we know the basics about football. It’s stuff that wouldn’t come to us naturally and will help us improve.”

Some of the youth attending camp are a little less experienced and enjoy learning the fundamentals of the game and the camaraderie of being around others who enjoy the game.

Ten-year-old Jacob Worthy, an incoming fifth-grade student at Orangefield Junior High, has attended the camp only once before and was excited to be back this year. His reasons for attending camp were simple and straight to the point.

“I like football and it’s Orangefield,” Jacob stated plainly.

Jacob said the heat “wasn’t too bad” and he knew it was a small price to pay in order to be like his football heroes Jason Witten of the Dallas Cowboys, and Earl Thomas III, an Orange-native and member of the Seattle Seahawks.

Jacob said he likes playing football and either wants to be a tight end on offense or a linebacker on defense.

“We’ve been learning the proper stances to play offense,” Jacob said of what knowledge he has gained while attending the football camp. “And we have been learning how to tackle properly on defense, which is most important because I really want to play defense.”

For Smalley and the rest of the coaching staff involved, this week’s three day camp serves as a great way to get ready for the start of the season and to generate that Bobcats spirit in the youth in attendance.

“Having 80 kids from a community our size attend this three-day camp is pretty remarkable,” Smalley said. “That says a lot about how well our program is doing and how many of these kids want to Bobcats.”