ANNA – With football season just around the pylon, scores of students, grades one through nine, got an early start on the game at the Anna Independent School District football camp, July 26-28. Anna athletic director and head football coach Jason Heath said he was quite pleased with the response from the community.

“It’s probably one of our best turnouts,” he said. “Each year, we’ve increased in number. We should be right around 100 (campers), maybe a little more when everybody gets here. That’s the most we’ve ever had. It’s neat seeing the growth of youth sports and, specifically, our football here in Anna.”

The worst effects of the late-July heat were avoided as camp ran each day from 8:30-11 a.m., with plentiful barrels of water available on each side of the field at Coyote Stadium.

A host of Anna ISD football coaches assisted with camp, including varsity offensive coordinator Joey Hector who opened the first day with a spirited session of stretching and calisthenics. Throughout this period, Hector stressed attention to detail and disciplined responses.

“To me, it’s probably the most important part of our job,” he said, “to teach these kids how to follow directions and instructions. If they’re uncoachable kids, they’re unemployable adults. The biggest thing we try to do out here is teach them how to be coachable, how to follow instructions, so they understand what they’re supposed to do. If they can’t follow instructions, in life or anything else, they’re going to be in trouble.”

Hector smiled when asked what he enjoys most about camp.

“I love seeing all the little kids’ faces when they’re out on the field, and how they look at the older kids that have been here before,” he said. “And I like watching the older kids, as camp goes on, how they start to help develop the younger kids, and pass down the information that they’ve learned from other camps.”

Coach Noble Polk, varsity defensive coordinator and inside linebackers coach, followed Hector’s introduction to camp with instruction on proper tackling.

“Anytime you can get these kids outside in the heat and still make it fun, and have those smiles on their faces,” he said, “it’s always a good time for us. At a young age, these kids can take some discipline and they start to learn how to play the ball game safely and the right way. Anytime we can teach that, get their heads going in the right direction, it’s always a plus.”

Heath echoed Polk and Hector on the importance of instilling discipline and teamwork in these settings.

“That’s big,” he said. “That’s with any sport. You’ve got to be attentive. You’ve got to pay attention to detail. … Those kids that are able to do that are the ones that usually excel. And they don’t have to be the most talented kid in the world but if they’ll give us great effort and be coachable, they’ll be successful. They’ll be a player for us.”

As camp wound down on Friday, NFL playing card packs were handed out to campers who had shown good hustle throughout training, and nine campers received footballs and playing gloves for winning the Punt-Pass-and-Kick competition. Those winners included: Payton Miller, Kaleb Turner, Kylan Gage, Jett Adams, Emanuel Crosby, Jay Heath, Jaden Adams, Jamison Adams and Justin Amon.

To conclude things, as is Anna’s custom, new AISD coaches were pelted with water balloons at close range by happy-to-oblige campers. New coaches this year who faced the attack were Charles Leslie, Jimmy Patterson, Jeff Egger and George Rubio.