DE Desmond Bryant assists in a Gatorade Junior Training Camp drill. Photo by Tony Gonzales
Recently, DE Desmond Bryant spent time with students in the Coronado Academics First After School Program, Nystrom After School Program and the Coronado YMCA After School Program as part of a Raiders Gatorade Junior Training Camp at Martin Luther King, Jr. Park in Richmond, Calif. Close to 250 students participated in the training camp, which consisted of various football drills in a fun and safe environment.
Bryant assisted Raiders representatives and Kohl's volunteers, leading the students through the different stations. "We went out and were able to get the students outside and get them working a little bit doing some athletic drills," explained Bryant. "There was some football specific stuff for different running back, quarterback and wide receiver drills. These drills were to get the kids moving and get them outside and get them playing. I think it was a good opportunity for these kids. I think it's good to get them over to the local community center and have the kids out running around playing with different equipment that we were able to provide. I think all in all it's a great program."
Reginald Figgs, the Coronado After School Program supervisor, understood the importance of getting the kids outside and active. "It's definitely number one," said Figgs. "In our after school program, most of our kids come from homes where both the parents work. That's the niche we're trying to fill by providing physical and academic opportunities for the kids while their parents are working. So if the parents don't get home until it's too dark, then they'll have trouble getting out and doing fun and athletic things. But with us here, filling that void and Gatorade being a major partner and helping us get the kids out and active, it goes a long way as far as letting the kids know about nutrition and health and being fit and getting their 30 minute a day in."
The physical activity is critical, but Figgs also recognized an even more vital purpose for the camp and Bryant's attendance. "The neighborhood is just kind of in need of an uplift," said Figgs. "We have really good parents here, but there's been a lot of bad stereotypes and bad rumors about the area. We have really good kids, really good parents, and we just felt like an event like this would be good for the kids, uplift them halfway through the school year, give them something exciting and maybe [help them] as far as their academic and their behavioral pursuits."
Linda Cohen, Principal of Coronado Elementary School was thrilled that the Raiders were able to spend time with the students. "Our regular after school program provides students with an opportunity to work in teams and learn how to get along and play together," said Cohen. "It's an amazing opportunity that they don't have during the day. So it really enriches them. This is an amazing experience for them because they don't get this kind of opportunity hardly ever. It just provides them with exposure that they don't usually get – the kids don't get the opportunity to go to games or to work with players. They can see [the player's] work ethic and that it's inspiring to them."
Bryant helped demonstrate the drills and kept the students energized through the hour of physical activity. "I just enjoy it," said Bryant. "I know when I was growing up there's a lot of things that I know about now that I didn't know about when I was growing up. I think it's a huge influence in a child's life when they have the ability to have a professional athlete or someone from a professional team come out and get involved with the kids. I think that really impacts them in some way down the line. I think it's going to help them and be beneficial to them in the future."
Cohen agreed with Bryant's assessment of the camp's impact and hoped that the students left the camp inspired to stay physically active and work hard. "We all know that the total child is what makes a child a good child so we really need the athletic part," said Cohen. "I think for us, the most important thing is really learning how to cooperate and get along and how to have a goal and work on it and the Raiders exemplify that. So they look up to them because they're big, literally, and because they have a great work ethic."