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Youth camp is 'key element' in Boyle's football success

July 12, 2004|LARRY VAUGHT

Recruiting is not normally considered a part of a high school coach's job, especially one who has been as successful as Chuck Smith.

The Boyle County head football coach has guided the Rebels to an unprecedented five straight state titles and his team has won 73 of its last 75 games. However, when Smith got to Boyle, the most important thing he might have done was start recruiting young players.

"When I first came to Boyle County, the best athletes were not playing football. They were playing basketball, soccer or anything but football," said Smith. "The high school kids had already made up their mind they weren't going to play football and I wasn't going to get them to change their minds. I was wasting my time trying to recruit the high school kids who had never played football."

That's basically why Smith started the Boyle County Youth Football Camp 12 years ago. If he couldn't convince talented high school athletes to play football, he knew he had to find a way to persuade younger athletes and their parents that playing football at Boyle could be a good experience.

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"Parents probably weren't comfortable with having their kids play football because there really had been no success at the high school level," Smith said. "I had to get to the kids at an early age and try to influence them to play football and that they could be successful playing football. I knew if I couldn't get the young kids interested, then we would never be successful."

Now Smith calls the camp a "key element" in the success of his program.

Camp has 107 players from grades three through eight

He had 107 players in grades three through eight at his camp Friday night and Saturday morning. He also had 10 other Boyle coaches and 15 of his former players working the camp.

"We started this because we wanted to get to know some of the young kids in the community who would be future Boyle County football players," Smith said. "We wanted to know them if ran into them at Wal-Mart. We wanted them and their parents to feel comfortable around us.

"That idea has not changed. The camp has grown, mainly because of our success. But now it's something our coaches and former players really look forward to. It's sort of a reunion. Some of the former players actually looked up to some of the players here when they were young and at the camp. That's why they have such a good time with each other."

Smith said his first camp had "maybe 40" participants. Now it's unusual for Smith to have a player on his high school team that did not attend the camp for several years. He remembers his son, senior quarterback Brandon Smith, coming to the camp as a third-grade player.

"Unless a player moves into Boyle County, he's probably been to our camp," Smith said.

Young players get to meet former stars

The coach knows young players now come not only because of Boyle's state titles, but also to see the former players who have gone on to successful college careers.

Neal Brown, the school's all-time leading receiver, played two years at Massachusetts after transferring from Kentucky. He has been a graduate assistant at UMass, but recently took a job at Division I-AA Sacred Heart University in Fairfield, Ct. However, he was still back to work the camp.

Brothers Bobby and Travis Leffew are both starting linemen at Louisville, a team ranked in most preseason top 25 polls. Both have worked camp every year since leaving Boyle.

Current Kentucky players Jacob Tamme and Taylor Begley were back at the camp. So was Eastern Kentucky receiver Matt Miller.

Ian Young and Brad Cloud, two standouts on last season's state title team and recent participants in the Kentucky-Tennessee All-Star Game, worked their first camp.

"Hopefully they will want to keep coming back like some of these other guys have," Smith said.

Former Boyle running back Jeremy Sleet has not missed a camp.

"He calls every year to ask when we are having the camp so he can arrange his schedule," Smith said. "He came all the way from Cincinnati this year.

"It means a lot to have these guys come back and impresses me that they want to give back to the program. Nobody is paid anything. All the money made at the camp goes into my budget for supplies, equipment or whatever else we need."

Campers pay more attention to players than coaches

Smith knows the campers probably pay more attention to the former players than they do the current coaches.

"It impresses kids to come to camp and see Taylor or Jacob or the Leffews," Smith said. "Those are the guys they are going to watch (on TV) on Saturdays or see a lot of publicity about. It means a lot to these young kids that they come back. Heck, it means a lot to me that they find time to come.

"Most of the kids are in awe of the former players. You can tell that by the way they interact with them during camp or how they are after they do get an autograph."

However, Smith said the former players have as much fun signing autographs or participating in drills and 7-on-7 games with the campers as the future Rebels do at the camp.

"It's a chance for them to talk about old times as well as have a good time," the Boyle coach said.

And what about the head coach? Does he enjoy the camp as much as he did when attracting young players was a necessity?

"It's a lot of work to pull it all together, but once it happens, it's a lot of fun," Smith said. "We have a great time together. It's stressful to get it all organized, but it's well worth it because I can have a lot fun. But once camp is over, it's all work because then I'm getting ready for our season."

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