Staff Photo: John Bohn North Gwinnett football coach Bob Sphire offers advice to Chase Anderson, 8, and other players attending Sphire's football camp for kids 7-13. Due to wet field conditions, the camp is held in the old gymnasium at North Gwinnett High School on Monday.
SUWANEE -- As the North Gwinnett football community develops its tradition, a grassroots strategy to foster that sense of pride comes in part from summer camps for kids like the one coach Bob Sphire put on this week.
The "Air Raid" Camp is a non-contact football camp designed to allow each player to develop both skills and knowledge of football. Some of the coaches, though, are current varsity players and young alumni. Sphire said he reminds those college underclassmen that in their college dorm room when they check the North score on Friday nights, these kids, ages 7-13, will carry the tradition.
"They have guys in their dorm from Norcross or Collins Hill; they take pride in looking at that score, and bragging about what they're team is doing," Sphire recalled telling the rising seniors and recent graduates. "I reminded them of that last week: 'When you go away, you may not realize it now, but you're going to be checking that, and you want them to have the same success that you've had.'"
The same players that will make Saturday morning headlines, and touchdown club players of the week, are running around cones and trash cans at this camp.
"You want to go to college and look back, and three or four years, you see (these guys) in the paper, you remember coaching him in camp," Sphire said. "It's kind of got a special feel to it."
Some of those players-turned-coaches include recent graduate and former quarterback Scotty Hosch, senior linebacker Jake Jaragoski, senior cornerback Ehvann Holland and sophomore linebacker Ben Carswell. They helped coach about 70 youngsters this week.
Holland said it was easy to sign up to help because he likes to give back to the community and work with kids.
"It helps them get an idea of what we're about," Holland said. "It helps me as a person develop, and them develop as a better football player."
Added Sphire, "I think you learn things better when you're teaching yourself. So these guys get an opportunity when they're teaching these drills and demonstrating and walking them through it. So it puts them in coach mode."
Younger siblings of former players participated in the camp, like Brian Eberhardt, who knew some of the coaches from when his older brother Eric was in the program.
Brian Eberhardt is a rising eighth grader, and said the camp helps him transition from being a lineman, to a tight end.
"It's fun, because most of the (varsity players) know me, and I get along with all of them ... most of the coaches know me," he said. "It's fun to be around them, because they're good coaches."
Jaragoski said he didn't attend a camp like this when he was the age of the campers, but now wishes he had. Jaragoski said the camp uses the same drills the varsity team does, and he enjoys watching the next generation.
"It makes me feel good about all the kids that we have feeding into the program," Jaragoski said.
The camp also serves as a microcosm of the community-wide relationship all levels of the North Gwinnett football community share. Last year, it was made mandatory by the North Gwinnett Football Association that all age groups, starting at age 6, use the same playbook as the high school team.
"You can tell the younger kids at the Friday night games when they recognize the plays," said Corey Gamble, president of the NGFA.
Gamble said the reception the younger kids give the high school players turned coaches is like a kid receiving instruction from a parent versus a family friend. That's especially evident when a rising freshman or sophomore gives instructions because the youngsters remember when they were on the middle school team.
"All of them look up to the older dudes," Gamble said.