BEREA -- Nearly 100 middle-school athletes received instruction from high school football coaches and certified athletic trainers at the Cleveland Browns’ inaugural Speed, Skill & Strength Clinic at the Casey Coleman Fieldhouse this weekend.
During the two-day clinic, the athletes were shown proper running and weight-lifting techniques and were tested in some of the same drills utilized at the NFL Scouting Combine, including the 40-yard dash, broad jump and high jump.
“We wanted to give these middle-school athletes an opportunity to learn the proper techniques, both in running and weight-training that would prepare them for the next level of football, which for most of these guys, it’s as they get ready for the high school level,” said Matt Yunker, youth football manager for the Browns. “They’ll have a basic understanding of what they need to work on and what they’ll be taught when they get to that high school level.”
Prior to participating in the drills, the campers heard from Brad Roll, the strength and conditioning coach for the Browns.
“Being able to teach the kids the proper technique at this age is paramount,” Yunker said. “You don’t want them overcompensating with wrong technique to try and lift more weights or run faster. You want them doing things right, even if it means taking time to build up to that high weight level or top speed. For us to reach the kids at this age, it’s invaluable that they can have this experience.”
The athletes participated in plyo-metric stations, line drills that emphasized sprinting and backpedaling, jump blocks and mini hurdles, cone drills, rope ladders and a sprinting station.
Gray Horn, a graduate of Waynesfield-Goshen High School in Northwest Ohio, and a member of three straight National Championship teams at the University of Florida, was instructing the athletes at the sprinting station.
A five-time Southeastern Conference champion in the decathlon and three-time Team USA member, Horn focused on teaching good arm motion.
“Running form with their arms and keeping their arms from pocket to chin, that’s really important for their age, as basic as it needs to be,” Horn said. “A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that if you’re running hard, up and down and your feet are moving fast, you’re running fast. That’s not the case. I want to stress to these kids that how hard they push forward makes a difference in their 40-yard dash when receivers are getting off the line.”
Mike Ptacek, the head football coach at North Olmsted High School and director of the camp, emphasized the importance of learning technique at an early age and applying on the football field at the high school level.
“No matter who you talk to, whether it’s a high school football coach, a personal trainer, a collegiate athlete, when you first start out, there’s only one thing every guy talks about and that’s technique,” Ptacek said. “When you learn that technique, everything else will carry off of that.
“When you are first starting off and you’re at that middle-school age, it’s technique, flexibility and just learning the basics. Once you learn the basics, you create a foundation you’ll have for a lifetime.”