Local football camp strives to better youth

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It takes a village.

This is the belief of former Madisonville High School and University of Nebraska linebacker Alonzo Whaley, who will be running the Sixth Annual Hope For Youth Football Camp at Mustang Stadium next month with his brother Chris Whaley.

Chris Whaley, also a graduate of MHS, played college football for the Texas Longhorns before a stint with the Dallas Cowboys. A number of others, including Brad Taylor, will also assist in running the camp.

“Chris and I were talking one day while he was still with the Cowboys and we just discussed how there really were not opportunities such as this growing up where someone would tell you that you can be something outside of football,” said Alonzo.

Lessons learned through sports can often translate to real life. The Whaley brothers, who have reached the pinnacle of theirs, know this all too well. The idea of the Hope For Youth Football Camp is to give hope to the community’s youth outside of football, through football.

“You do not think about how those things factor into everyday life until you are an adult,” said Alonzo. “We want to instill those basic concepts like cheering on others, having your teammate’s back and being part of a team, those things certainly factor into adulthood but you may not realize it as a kid.”

The camp teaches these lessons by breaking the barriers of sport and relating them to everyday life scenarios. One of the biggest points of emphasis is the value an education plays in the life of a young person.

“First and foremost, my message everyday is that if you don’t have school, you have nothing,” said Alonzo. “My struggle when I went through that process was having to bust it at the last minute because my grades were not exactly what they needed to be. We definitely always hit on the importance of school and the concept that you cannot use football like a light switch, meaning you cannot neglect your school work and just turn it on when you play.”

The “village” concept comes from Whaley’s upbringing in Madisonville. Alonzo spoke fondly of his time here and the role the community played in raising him along with a single mother.

“Guidance was never an issue for us,” said Alonzo. “Our mother was adamant about us doing the right thing and treating everyone with respect. When it came down to guidance and having someone to follow, whether it was church, school or just walking around town, everyone knew my mother and the way that she wanted to raise us. It was not her by herself, she had a village help her. I cherish that and it is what helped us become what we are.”

Alonzo is also inspired by a quote from his close friend Darwin Washington, who operates the Pushing Education program in Madisonville. Pushing Education works to give back free school supplies to children in the community. The quote reads as follows:

“If everyone does a little, no one has to do a lot.”

“This stuck with me because I just want to do my part,” said Alonzo. “I just want to do a little. We’re not doing it for publicity or to have someone pat on us on the back, we are doing it because we owe it to everyone. We owe it to Madisonville.”

From a football standpoint, the camp will focus on basic fundamentals for the younger group and position-specific drills for the older participants. The camp was originally named Hope For Youth Football Camp because the Whaley brothers wanted to draw attention away from the fact that they were involved and focus on something greater than sports.

The scheduled camping days are July 25-26 and the kids will be broken up into two groups. The Kindergarten through grade five camp will take place each morning from 9-11 a.m. while grades six through twelve will compete from 1-2 p.m.

The Hope for Youth Football Camp is free to all participants, but pre-registration is encouraged. Registration will be allowed until the first day of camp. Check-in will begin at 8 a.m. on Thursday, July 25, the first day of camp.

For more information, email zowhaley@yahoo.com.

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