Former football stars share expertise
CARBONDALE – Standing in the middle of a rain-soaked practice field at Roaring Fork High School, Rick Upchurch is talking football.
And 50 kids, ranging in age from 6 to 16, listen intently to every word the former All-Pro wide receiver utters.
It’s not due to Upchurch being a member of the Denver Broncos for nine years, or for his ability to tell stories about John Elway.
It’s because he cares about kids and the sport which launched him to icon status in Colorado.
“I want to give something back to football,” Upchurch said of the reason he formed the Rare Breed football camp for kids a number of years ago. “I and other athletes out here at the Rare Breed Football camp are looking for ways to give back to the community that supported us when we played pro football.”
That’s the reason he, along with former NFL players Dwight Hicks, Tyrone Braxton, Ken Woodard and Greg Boyd traveled to Carbondale this week – to teach and to pass on to the next generation of players what they have learned.
The other goal is to help the campers become better people.
While the camp centers on football, Upchurch said the primary goal of the Rare Breed camp is to “to help become disciplined in the classroom.”
“If kids aren’t disciplined in the classroom, it becomes difficult for them to be successful,” Upchurch continued.
He said that using something the kids commonly enjoy – in this case, football – helps the Rare Breed staff teach discipline.
“After this camp, the kids can go back out into society and into the classroom, and they have that discipline,” Upchurch said.
Along with greater self-discipline, the kids also gain appreciation, experience and the skills they hope to use on the football field.
Training exercises are geared to prevent injury and unnecessary or overzealous body contact, while still learning to respond appropriately to playing situations.
Instead of tackling and contact, Rare Breed camps target improvement in an individual’s speed, strength, endurance and agility.
“We want them to take good fundamentals, concentration, focus and listening to details,” Upchurch said of the camp’s goals. “If they do all of those things, they will improve themselves as a person and as a athlete.”
Each day of the three-day camp, which started Wednesday and concludes today, features dual sessions. The first session starts at 9 a.m., breaking for the camp-provided lunch at noon.
After a 90-minute break, the Rare Breed staff begins a second instructional session, lasting until 4:30 p.m.
Upchurch and his staff kept up a constant stream of reminders to the kids.
“Take pride in what you’re doing,” Upchurch said during warmups. “The benefactor is you.”
Hicks also stressed pride while working with a group of campers.
“If you want to play football. Do it like you mean it,” he said.
The campers responded by raising their work ethic to a higher notch.
“Kids are eager to learn. They want to learn,” said Upchurch. “It’s not very hard for us to get them motivated. We get the kids together, they learn from each other, and they motivate themselves.
“We tell them this is the place they can build to become a football player by learning the basic fundamentals.”
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The 40th annual Demon Invitational track and field meet takes place Saturday, May 15 at Stubler Memorial Field.