On a bright, warm Saturday morning at the Oakland Raiders Alameda headquarters, 200 children, with their parents in tow and draped in Silver and Black, waited in line excitedly to check-in for the 10th Annual Raiders Youth Skills Camp, presented by Wendy's and Lucky.
Everyone is a winner in this camp as the players get to meet their fans and the fans get to meet their heroes on the field where "it" gets done. Most importantly, it gives the Raiders organization a chance to connect with the youngest members of the Raider Nation.
Families and fans from around the country bring their children to the camp each year so the kids can learn from their sports idols how to develop the physical skills and mental discipline necessary to play the game of football.
Once the registration period was over, parents and children prepared for the two-day camp on the practice field by setting up tents and chairs and throwing footballs around to get in the spirit.
The atmosphere in the parents section resembled the renowned Raiders tailgate parties at the Oakland Coliseum.
Once situated, the kids gathered on the field to meet the coaches and the players who would be teaching and motivating them throughout the weekend. The kids sat on one knee as they listened intently to every word from the coaches, the 2010 rookie class and some veteran players.
After everyone was introduced, the kids gathered around the Raiders 2010 first round draft pick, Rolando McClain, who told them to "play fast and practice fast." He urged them to get the most out of what would be, for most, a once-in-a lifetime experience.
Raiders Hall of Famer Willie Brown told the kids that the camp's purpose was to provide them with the skills it takes to be successful in life and in athletics.
Players, coaches and kids split up into groups and began a 15-segment drill program with stretching and sprinting. While the kids were warming up, parent Enrique Vigil of Windsor explained what he got out of the camp as a parent.
"I get the joy out of seeing my son elated about having the opportunity to do something that I would have really loved to do as a kid," Mr. Vigil said.
That sentiment was shared by parent Janelle Morris of Sacramento, a season ticket holder for 10 years. She said she drove her son to camp so, "He could learn fundamentals and discipline."
Special teams coordinator John Fassel, who has participated in the camp for three years, said he and the other coaches believe that the kids appreciate the game more and respect the players more when they get to see how hard the players work every day to get better during the camp.
"Hopefully the kids enjoy the day and see the love the [players] have for the game," said Coach Fassel.
Throughout the two-day camp, coaches in white shirts and players in their jerseys clapped and cheered as they encouraged the kids to push themselves through the various drills.
Volunteers from the Raiders organization and from Kohl's department stores set up cones and kept the kids hydrated. The volunteers worked tirelessly in the hot sun to make sure that the kids had an organized and smooth running Raiders experience.
Campers were afforded the opportunity to get autographs from the players and tour the Raiders facility.
The fast paced drills provided a fun and spirited exercise that energized the rookies and fueled their enthusiasm for the kids in their groups.
McClain said about the kids in his first camp, "I feed off their energy and they feed off me. It feels good to see a little kid listening and so eager to learn." All of the players voiced similar opinions.
Perhaps, 11-year-old Steven Roselli of Tennessee summed it up best, "This is awesome!"