The beginning of fall football is right around the corner with the high schools officially beginning practice Monday, Aug. 5.
For Era ISD, a youth football clinic served as a warmup for the coaches as well as a window into the future of the program.
Era head coach Aaron Fortenberry said the enthusiasm from the kids was encouraging.
“There’s always that anticipation before football season,” Fortenberry said. “Everybody’s really excited. We’re ready. We’re ready. So hopefully, when we get here on Monday, everything will be the same. I’m looking forward to it. And we’re excited as a coaching staff.”
Fortenberry said this time with the younger athletes is integral toward building a program.
“It’s real big,” Fortenberry said. “They get to know you a little bit and you get to know them. They get to kind of see what our junior high school kids are doing day in and day out. They see those kids walk through the halls and see them on the field on Fridays. I always tell my older kids that you’re the role model. They want to be you one day.”
Fortenberry and the coaching staff didn’t want to overcomplicate things for the fourth through eighth graders.
The message to them was simple.
“The biggest thing is with the younger ones is we want them to have fun and we kind of preach that we want them to play hard,” Fortenberry said. “And that’s our big our big motto. Throughout whatever you’re doing, do it as fast as you can or as hard as you can. You’re gonna make mistakes, but go full effort. And that’s kind of what we preach to them. They’ve been doing a great job.”
When the coaching staff did get into the weeds a bit with its instruction, Fortenberry said the focus was on technique at every position.
“If you’re going to the right, you’re going to step with your right,” Fortenberry said. “If you’re going to your left, step your left. With everything you do, keeping your eyes up and your back flat. We teach them the safe technique as we go through stuff. So the big thing is everybody does everything. So the lineman might be a running back or he might have to go cover receivers. Then the receivers might be blocking a dummy or whatever. Everybody learns every position.”
Era closed out one of its days with a tackling drill on a stuffed dummy and Fortenberry said it was a good opportunity to teach the correct tackling form.
“It’s just to get them used to it because that’s what everybody growing up, they see on TV and they want to do the big hit,” Fortenberry said. “So we want to get them out there with the pads. They’re going to scoop and score and do all that stuff too. It’s trying to make it as fun as you can, while still doing technique stuff.”
Patrick Hayslip can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter at @PatrickHayslip