Photo by John Fannin
Former NFL player Spencer Conley, left, rallies a group of youngsters during a day-long football camp at Clem Senn Field. Seahawk Justin Britt, second from left, hosted the camp.
SUNNYSIDE More than 500 Yakima Valley kids are applying life and football basics they learned yesterday from the Seattle Seahawks.
Seattle offensive guard Justin Britt and special guest running back Thomas Rawls spent the day Sunday at Clem Senn Field for one of a series of camps he is hosting around the state.
“Sunnyside is an opportunity to reach a lot of kids in one place,” Britt said of the city’s location between Yakima and the Tri Cities.
As for the hundreds who turned out, Britt added, “They’re hard working athletes… really pushing through this rain.”
Nine-year-old Phoenix Sanchez from Yakima was among them.
The grid kid football player said, “We learned about the stances we need, but they mainly want us to have fun. They taught us to live life to the fullest.”
Juanita Soto’s son also plays grid kid football. She grinned ear-to-ear, sharing how the camp taught basics in a style consistent with what her son learns in grid kids. “And he’s learning it from Seahawk football players!” she said.
During one huddle up, players received a stern warning when they didn’t immediately quiet down at the whistle.
Motivational speaker and former NFL player Spencer Conley taught civics lessons on the Clem Senn Field, including saying “yes sir” and putting trash in the garbage can.
Inside the high school gym, Britt had a team of instructors offering a cheerleading camp.
Brooke Caldwell led the cheer camp. She has 20 years of experience in cheer and dance, and has instructed camps in the US, Canada and Europe.
“I thought that Brooke did a really good job of engaging the girls,” local volunteer Dana Smith said. “She kept it light and fun for them.”
She said Caldwell taught basics such as arm movements, along with eight-count cheers and dances.
“She taught them how to cheer on their team,” Smith said. “She stressed the importance of getting the crowd involved.”
Sunnyside Cheerleader camp
Britt, a 2014 second round draft pick, said this is his second year running a football/cheer camp. Proceeds benefit youth programs he offers in Washington and Missouri, where he played college football.
“I started helping people like Russell Wilson with their camps,” he said “I saw how they do it… it’s a chance to give back.”
Camp spokesman Marlon Minifee said the turnout in Sunnyside topped attendance at Britt events in Bellingham and the Tri-Cities last Saturday and today, respectively.
“This is Seahawk country!” a t-shirt vendor said after hearing that news.
Seahawk fans were eager to hear Britt’s view on last week’s NFL free agent signings.
“I’m happy to have guys like Jermaine (Kearse) back,” he said of Seattle’s success in re-signing the wide receiver.
Free agency is leaving a mark on the Seahawks’ offensive line, however, with at least two of Britt’s fellow stalwarts gone for greener pastures.
“It’s tough to lose them… but I’m happy for those guys and their families,” he said. “They deserve whatever they can get.”
Local Seahawk fans had additional opportunities yesterday and today to mingle with Britt and Rawls.
They bowled at Valley Lanes last night, and Britt signed autographs at McDonald’s today before heading to his next camp in the Tri-Cities.
There’s a possibility Britt will be back here next year, perhaps with more Seahawks.
“They were pleased with the turnout, and I’m excited they might be back next year,” Smith said. “There could potentially be other players coming.”
Smith said she was impressed by the community turnout of more than 500 children, not including adults who volunteered their time.
“It was an opportunity to show our community is growing… it’s a community where people want to be,” Smith said.