Kids get cram course in Lions camp

Coaches flip footballs to campers while they step through a footwork drill at last week’s Detroit Lions Youth Football Camp at Grand Blanc High.

Coaches flip footballs to campers while they step through a footwork drill at last week’s Detroit Lions Youth Football Camp at Grand Blanc High.

GRAND BLANC – The annual summertime Detroit Lions Youth Football Camp at Grand Blanc High usually isn’t affected by Old Man Winter, but it was this year.

Because of the excessive snow days that forced schools to stay open well into the middle of June, Grand Blanc’s schedule for the Fundamentals Camp last week had to be shortened from four days to two. A camp at Brighton the previous week also had to be compacted.

The kids still received the same 15 hours of training and instruction of previous camps, but this year they got it in two eight-hour days instead of four half-days.

“We took a four-day, half-day format and moved it into two full days,” said Chris Fritzsching, the Detroit Lions Director of Youth Football and the hands-on director of the Grand Blanc camp last Thursday and Friday. “It’s a long day of football. A traditional practice is two, 2 ½ hours. Heck, the Lions’ longest practice is probably a couple of hours itself.

“We’re spending 3 ½ hours in the morning and 3 ½ hours in the afternoon. The kids are going to be tired.”

The 56 kids in attendance last Thursday were still full of energy after the morning session, which focused on defensive skills.

Campers aged 6-14 rotated through four stations divided into defensive line, linebacker, defensive back and punt team skills. They closed the session with a brief scrimmage, then sat down for a lunch of sub sandwiches and chips.

The focus in the afternoon switched to offensive skills, and if any of the kids were getting tired, they had to be perked up by the appearance of Lions wide receiver Cody Wilson.

Other college and high school coaches included Greg Souldourian of Plymouth High; Dan Renel, who coached Cody Wilson at Rochester Hills; Jim Hamilton of Siena Heights University, and Patrick Hill of Henderson State in Arkansas. Fritzsching himself conducted the punt session.

This was the third of 32 camps the Lions are sponsoring around Michigan between June 7 and Aug. 3. Grand Blanc was one of the original sites when the program started in 2004, and the school has hosted one every year since.

“This is our 11th year coming up here,” noted Fritzsching. “It’s nice to come around and give a taste of the game of football to kids and help them experience what the game is all about and how it all works together.”

The exercise is an added benefit — even if it is seven hours’ worth.

“There’s a whole NFL initiative called Play 60,” Fritzsching said during the lunch break. “It’s important for kids to understand the importance of getting outside, staying active and building a healthy lifestyle.

“We’re telling these kids we’ll play a lot longer than 60 minutes today.”

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