To the editor:
Two weekends ago, the weather was extremely hot for most of us, it was quite cool for the 450 youngsters who attended Patriots’ All-Pro tight end Rob Gronkowski’s football camp held at Bishop Fenwick High School in Peabody.
The camp was set up to teach youngsters ages 7 to 14, the fundamentals of all the positions in football while having fun. There were 30 coaches handling this task. Sportsmanship and team work were also strongly emphasized. These kids were also made aware that in sports as in life, there will be times when everyone does not always get to play, get to win or get a trophy. This happens only through hard work and doing things right. Strangely enough, most of these campers knew this which was refreshing to hear,
Last month, I had joined a new organization called CoachUp. It lists online, coaches and the sport each one handles for teaching athletes the related fundamentals either individually or in small groups. This is how I and several other coaches were selected to coach at Gronk’s camp.
I am used to working with teenagers and older football players, but at Gronk’s camp, I was assigned a group called the Wolverines. These kids, boys and girls, ranged in age from 7 to 9. All I can say is that I had a blast coaching them. Especially at that age, they are so energetic, enthusiastic and eager to learn.
I had two youngsters who told me that they did not really like football, but that they wanted to be there just to meet Gronk.
One boy had a round pudgy face and wore wire rim glasses and the other was very slender and frail looking. I told them that was OK, but just try to do the best you can for each drill — and they did. In the receiving drill, both kids made bobbling catches of the ball and managed to hang on to it while falling to the ground. When they got up, the other kids clapped and cheered for them as I did, yelling good job, good effort!
Although Gronk was wearing a cast and had his arm in a sling, he mingled with the kids, had photographs taken with each group of campers and even threw the ball to them in the 7 on 7 competition drills. On both days, he also put aside a few hours, to autograph pictures for 450 campers. His brother Dan, who is currently with the Cleveland Browns and their father Gordie were also their to participate. Gronk and his family could not have been any more accommodating.
Over the past 40 years that I have been coaching football, I have also been at camps run by well-known pro football players. They would make a brief appearance, then leave and not come back — no photographs, autographs or mingling with the campers. I consider Gronk’s camp to be one of the best I ever worked.
The youngsters got to met an All-Pro football player who is a very popular sports figure. Many of them got to shake his hand and catch passes from him.
Most important, Gronk made all those kids feel like a million bucks.
Now, 450 kids will be watching him play later on this season along with their families, and you can be sure many will be back next year — including me.