By T. Scott Boatright
When it comes to numbers, Ruston High School athletics director and head football coach Jared Baugh feels like the Bearcats scored a touchdown, or maybe even two, earlier this week.
On Tuesday and Wednesday Baugh and Co. conducted their annual Ruston Bearcat Football Camp, with a little more than 200 area youth being tutored on gridiron fundamentals.
“We had what I think was a very good turnout,” Baugh said. “We had 210 kids on Tuesday and 211 on Wednesday, so I was very pleased with the turnout. We’ve always had more than 150 but had never been to 200, so it’s the most we’ve had going into my sixth year as head coach.”
All of Ruston’s high school team coaches worked the camp along with the coaching staffs from Ruston Junior High and I.A. Lewis. So we had sixth grade through varsity coaches. We had a bunch of guys out there -— 30 coaches working with kids that were in kindergarten through incoming ninth grade.”
Baugh said getting the incoming freshman players at RHS is one of the big benefits of holding the camp.
“We had 41 freshmen both days there, which was not quite all of them – we had several guys who were still gone on vacation and that kind of thing,” Baugh said. “That’s a good thing because that’s a good opportunity for our coaches to work with kids that will be playing for us and getting an early start on what they’ll start learning next week.”
Baugh said the camp began with the simple pigskin basics.
“We started out the first day doing what we call ‘County Fair,’ which is just a lot of standard drill work that’s good for kids of any age, any position, and really any sport. It’s good for agility work and footwork and that kind of thing. We split the kids up by age groups and kind of rotated them around at different stations.
“Then we split the younger kids up to fifth grade and sent them up to the grass field, and split the junior high kids off with their coaches. The ninth-grade kids worked with their coaches, and that was structured more like an actual practice and the little kids did some standard drill work — offensively learning how to take handoffs, throw a football, catch a football and defensively they did a little tackling circuit, working with tackling dummies and that sort of thing.
“And then we did some special teams stuff where they got the opportunity to punt some balls and do some kickoffs.”
Baugh said the camp was blessed with what seemed to be slightly cooler temperatures than has left Lincoln Parish simmering in recent weeks.
“I thought the kids handled the heat really well,” Baugh said. “We had water available at any time and gave them plenty of water breaks. Particularly the first day seemed a little cooler. There was a log of cloud cover. We caught a break there.
“We were fortunate in that and the coaches did a really good job of monitoring that and making sure everyone stayed hydrated.”
Baugh said the Bearcat Football Camps play a crucial role in several ways, including simply by helping build a fan base as well as a potential player base.
“I think that’s why it’s important that we do this and I really encourage all of our other head coaches of other RHS sports to do those camps, like our basketball camp does Bearcat Ballers. We had soccer camp that started (Thursday) and they’ll continue (today). Coach (Zack) Smith, our baseball coach, is planning on doing a summer camp next year.
“It’s something where you get young kids there to the facilities, learn who our coaches are and hopefully become part of the team later on. I think it’s a really good starting point for some of those younger kids – a good building block for later on.”
Now Baugh turns his attention to the “real deal” – the start of preseason RHS football workouts that will begin on Monday.
“Those older kids are fixing to start practice for real next week and I think this gave them an opportunity to kind of see what that looks like, really it’s kind of like an early start, so I was really encouraged by those kids who got the opportunity to do that. Now it won’t be brand new on Monday when they get out there.”
Along with the start of official preseason practice, Ruston will hold its annual Bearcat Madness football fan day at 6:30 p.m. on Aug. 12.
Football parents will meet in the field house before the event at 5:30 p.m. and the event will include hamburger plates, drinks and Kona Ice for sale along with free Blue Bell ice cream as long as it lasts.
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