Photo by Michelle Chance

 

More than 70 Maricopa kids received free professional coaching on football drills and life lessons Saturday.

The USA Football FUNdamentals clinic by Chandler organization SportMetric was hosted by Super Bowl XXX champion Derek Kennard.

“We have some very young kids out here that just want to have fun,” Kennard said.

Hunter Smihula, 8, enjoyed tackling dummy bags during drills, even in the July heat.

Smihula said he’s played tackle football before but was excited to learn new techniques at camp.

“I like it because it’s fun, I get to run around and you get to do drills that you haven’t done before,” Smihula said.

Kennard was joined by other former pros on the field at Copper Sky Recreation Center – former Cincinnati defensive end Skip McClendon; Daryll Clack, former Arizona State University and Dallas Cowboys running back; and former Fresno State tight end Jerin McClendon, and others.

The program is funded by USA Football grants. The process requires camps to teach kids character traits and life skills beyond athletics, befitting SportMentric’s mantra: academics, community and athletics.

“We teach them to be focused, dedicated and if this is what they want to do, we teach them what it takes to be successful,” Clack said.

The kids also learned about community engagement and the importance of classroom performance, said SportMetric co-founder Darius Perry.

“We show the families it doesn’t cost a lot to do these drills, but it costs even less to work with the young man or young woman at home to develop not just football skills but skills in the classroom, in the community and in the home,” Perry said.

The organization plans three camps per year, usually in Maricopa County.

It was SportMetric’s first USA Football Clinic in Maricopa.

“Working with small communities gives us the chance to touch a group of kids that oftentimes don’t have this opportunity.,” said co-founder Josh Jakubczak.

Skip McClendon’s coaching of young athletes Saturday honed in on their agility and hand-eye-coordination.

His participation in camp clinics is motivated by his own experience as a young athlete.

“I remember when I was a kid when somebody came out and spoke to me, and it stuck,” McClendon said.

The camp Saturday was a family affair with families on lawn chairs supporting their young athletes while a father-son coaching team ran drills on the field.

McClendon’s son Jerin said coaching the kids was his way of giving back.

“People look up to people like us and they want to be where we’re at and just to see these kids smile, work hard and have fun, it means the world to me,” Jerin McClendon said.

Kennard is expected to run another camp in August.

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