group of friends from Olmsted Falls practice a play during a
camp at the Browns facility. (West Life photo by Larry Bennet)
camp more than just football for youths of all ages
By Matt Pawlikowski
Published July 4, 2007
Each year, the
Cleveland Browns, in cooperation with the National Football League
Youth Initiative Mission, host a week long camp for youths based
on criteria set forth by the NFL.
It is just one
way that the NFL keeps football going strong. The Browns also offer
free contact football camps throughout the area via the Junior Player
of youth development Ed Suggs, who is in his third year of running
the camp, put together the 2007 camp, which was broken into two
weeklong sessions. Last week’s session had over 120 kids, including
a girl from Berea, along with current Cleveland Browns strength
and conditioning coach Tom Myslinski’s son Tom, of Westlake, who
really enjoyed the program.
“This is my
first year of football,” said Myslinski. “I’ll be in the seventh
grade at St. Bernadette’s and like playing quarterback, linebacker
and defensive end. I especially like the linebacker position, and
this camp was very cool. You get to experience everything and they
teach you a lot. The coaches are really nice too.”
had a chance in the early summer to work with the Browns mini camp,
said that one of the things he noticed most during the week long
session was how hot it can get when you don the shoulder pads.
“I was really
surprised,” said the 5-foot-4, 127 pounder. “They add at least 10
degrees to the air temperature.”
The camp itself
is run by a familiar face to the local football scene, North Olmsted
coach Mike Ptacek, along with his staff and a few other assistants,
including D.A.R.E. police officers and North Olmsted Middle
School Principal Jim Alexandrou.
The Browns camp
is broken into two sessions. Those kids who are ages 8
to 12 are in the flag session. Those in the 11 to 14 age group
bracket participate in the equipment session. Kids 11 and 12
can pick which session they want to attend.
“Kids get to
learn the basics of football,” said Ptacek. “The flag camp is the
beginning basics of football, where the kids learn to block and
throw. They break into positional skills, and play games such as
flag football, skill challenges, relay races, and also ultimate
Ryan Strodteeck, of Olmsted Falls, who plays for the
St. Mary’s of the Falls Thunderbolts, says he wants to be like former
Bulldog standout Tyler Sparks someday. For him, the camp is a way
to learn more and be with friends.
“I got to hang
out with my friends, but also got to know a lot of other people,”
he said. “Playing flag football is the best.”
His friend and teammate at St. Mary’s- Tim May, laughed
when asked if he wants to be like Tyler Sparks also.
“No I like Alex
Sedley,” he said with a huge grin. “This is so much fun. We get
to play football and it was neat meeting Gary Baxter yesterday.
He talked to us about what to eat.”
Jamie Brink, who attends Lincoln Elementary school in Lakewood,
said he liked getting to meet the players, but also the camp itself.
“The best part
is the ultimate football games,” said Brink. “But the coaches were
also very helpful.”
camp is a little different than the flag session.
“The kids here
get to use shoulder pads and learn every single position and what
happens,” said Ptacek. “It helps get the kids interested and ready
for the middle school level.”
The Browns are
one of about 16 franchises in the 32-team NFL that operates a youth
football camp. But what makes the Browns camp unique is the where
it takes place, right on the grounds of the Browns Training facility
No other NFL
team does this, and it gives the youth a great opportunity to not
only workout on the same fields as the Browns, but to also interact
with team members.
“This is the
only NFL camp to be held at the facility of a team, “ said Mark Maruna.
“It offers the kids a chance to practice like the players and to
see the players working out.”
You might say
Maruna is Ptacek’s right hand man, as he helps coordinate not only
the camp in Berea, but also the Browns Junior Player Development
Camps that run throughout Northeast Ohio each summer.
“We work a lot
on teaching team fundamentals and its pretty good for the kids,”
said Maruna. “We teach them about the various positions and what
they need to know, they do a lot of games, and we also teach life
skills, which the kids can apply on and off the field.”
the assistant coach who spearheaded the effort of teaching and implementing
“I get to talk
with the kids everyday, and have been doing this now for six year
with Mike,” he said. “It works out really nice. We have goal setting,
we get the parents involved with the kids, and work on things such
as responsibility, perseverance, and respect.”
not the only person to speak to the kids. During the week, so did
a number of Browns, including Jason Wright (see feature on 2b) Gary Baxter, Reggie Sanders and Babatunde Oshinowo. Baxter told
the kids the value of good health, while the other three veterans
answered a number of questions from the youths.
For more information on next years camps, call the
Browns at 440-891-5100 or go to the team website at www.clevelandbrowns.com.