The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

Sports

June 7, 2012

Familiarity aids Joplin in summer camp

The biggest differences for Joplin Eagle summer football camp No. 2 under coach Chris Shields?

Familiarity and numbers.

And the small fact that the Eagles aren’t just a couple weeks removed from a devastating natural disaster.

It all adds up to a more relaxed, more productive summer camp that started Monday and wraps up this morning at Junge Field.

“The familiarity with the kids and the coaches and being able to step into a huddle and know kids’ names is huge this year,” said Shields, who guided the Eagles to a 3-7 record in his first season at Joplin. “We know what they can do so we’re able to move at a faster pace. At this time last year we were still going over how to huddle and how to line up.”

With a season under a new system, this summer’s week-long camp has been significantly quicker and more productive, Shields said.

“The kids know what to expect so they play faster. And the kids that are here, we know they’re committed,” he said. “I know how it is, any time your bring a new staff in you don’t know how the kids are going to react that first year.

“Now we know who we have out and we know they’re committed.”

The Eagles welcome back just three starters on offense — including quarterback Gabe Sachetta — and have five coming back on defense.

“ Right now we’re just trying to evaluate and see where we need guys and where guys can help us,” Shields said. “This year we’re not worrying so much about installing things and what we need to do. Now we can focus on doing things right and just getting better.

“Kids aren’t thinking as much so we can play faster and we can focus on technique.”

Sixty-five sophomores, juniors and seniors worked out in the early morning sessions this week before a group of nearly 40 freshmen started drills at 9 a.m. each day.

Those numbers are substantially higher than what Shields saw last summer.

“At this camp last year we only had 16 freshmen,” he said. “Now, a lot of it had to do with the tornado. I mean, we were two weeks removed from that. And now we’re at 38 or 39 freshmen coming out. That makes a huge difference.”

It also shows, Shields said, that this year’s team knows what it needs to do now in order to compete in the fall.

“We stress to the kids that this is where the work is. This is where you can get better and take advantage of this time,” he said. “This is where they need to be.”

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