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Fitch, Ursuline use summer to tour colleges, attend camps up and down the East Coast

Submitted photo / Fitch football players pose for a group photo on the field at Stambaugh Stadium after a camp at YSU earlier this summer.

The high school football season is fast approaching, but some area teams have been busy during the month of June.

Both Ursuline and Austintown Fitch have taken team trips to football camps at various colleges and universities up and down the east coast.

The summer is a key recruiting and evaluation period for college coaches and the camps represent an opportunity for high school players, from freshmen to seniors, to tour campuses, meet coaches, interact with other high school players, showcase their skills, bond with teammates and prepare for the upcoming season.

“It’s important to me to get out and get the kids different experiences,” said Fitch head coach TJ Parker. “It’s good to see how programs are run, see how they do things and see how their facilities are, so these kids have an idea. Everybody has an idea of what they think it is, but seeing it and going through it is a completely different thing.”

“More importantly, it gives our guys chances to bond and go through those experiences together, which can only help the team grow.”

The Irish have made several day trips this summer to camps at Cincinnati, Kentucky, Penn State, West Virginia and Toledo, while also taking one long trip from June 10-17. During that week-long roadtrip, they visited Pitt, Virginia Tech, UNC, NC State, then played in a 7-on-7 tournament at Duke and took a day off on the beach in Myrtle Beach, before then wrapping up with Coastal Carolina.

“This year, Coastal Carolina showed interest in a couple of our guys, so we thought it’d be good to get some more kids down there, and there were a lot of camps en route to that one,” said Ursuline head coach Dan Reardon. “(Pitt head coach) Pat Narduzzi is an Ursuline grad, so that’s a natural fit, plus they were looking at some of our guys. Then, (at Duke), we got a chance to play a bunch of 7-on-7 games against teams we normally wouldn’t have access to — teams from North Carolina, South Carolina and us. Plus it gave us the chance to go do some college tours, so our kids got a chance to see some extra schools.”

So far, Fitch has done day trips to Robert Morris, Youngstown State and Penn State, and it completed a northeast tour, visiting Buffalo, Syracuse, Albany and closing out with a 7-on-7 team camp at UConn.

But the Falcons aren’t done. While Ursuline has its big trip in the rearview mirror, Fitch’s big roadtrip is coming at the end of July. The Falcons will venture down to Virginia, then make a stop at James Madison before wrapping up at Virginia Tech.

“It’s our hope as a program that we have the ability to change these kids’ lives through football,” Parker said. “There’s a lot of guys on my staff that football has had a really major factor in the course of our lives that we’re living. If we can provide that to the kids that come through the program, that’s important to me and important to the rest of my staff.”

There are several different types of camps, and they vary depending on the school hosting them, according to Parker.

First are elite prospect camps, which are hosted by major Division I programs, such as Ohio State, and are flooded with coaches from Division I all the way to Division III. These camps are showcases for highly-rated recruits that are set up almost like the NFL Combine. Coaches will have players run the shuttle, the 40-yard dash, the broad jump, vertical jump and other drills, before then putting them through a circuit and do one-on-one battles at their respective positions.

Then, there’s mega camps, which invite as many colleges from the surrounding region as they can to one location. There can be as many as 20-50 colleges represented, with more than 600 players in attendance from as many as 400 different high schools. For example, when Fitch attended YSU’s mega camp June 13, schools that recruit the Youngstown and Mahoning Valley area were in attendance.

Finally, there’s team camps, which, as the name suggests, are team-oriented. They consist of 7-on-7 tournaments for high schools, or they can be big man camps for offensive and defensive linemen.

The camps aren’t just beneficial to the players — high school coaches use them for professional development as well, Reardon said. Coaches can learn new drills to run with their players, while also learning new schemes and ideas from other high school coaches, as well as the college coaches.

“A lot of the ‘coach speak’ that kids hear from our staff, the coaching points and everything, is very similar or sometimes identical to the words being spoken by different (college) coaching staffs at various schools,” Reardon said. “I think (kids) have a greater appreciation and understanding of what we’re trying to do when it’s reaffirmed from a coach of a college program. It’s good for the kids (and) for their growth.”

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