SMCC's Collins holds Little Bears football camp

Eleven-year-old Henry Williams, left, looks for running room during a drill Tuesday at the 2021 Little Bears Camp held at SMCC. Williams was one of dozens of children participating in the camp this year. 

In his first official camp held as head football coach at Southwest Mississippi Community College, Cliff Collins wrapped his two-day Little Bears camp Tuesday. The camp provided children ages 6-12 with valuable skills that they can use on the gridiron.

For Collins, however, it was a rewarding experience for him personally.

“Anytime you can work with kids, that is why we are in this profession, to help kids,” he said. “The smallest kid at the camp came up to me and he said ‘hey coach I am just trying to catch the ball like you told me.’ Just the little things, fundamentals, putting the ball above your waist (etc.). Just things like that, anything a kid can take to further his career, that is the whole benefit of this camp.”

During Monday’s and Tuesday’s sessions, the campers learned a wide array of skills including passing, blocking, tackling and catching, to name a few. But in addition to the physical skills, Coach Collins and his assistants made sure to implement the mental side of the game as well.

“We actually had a classroom set yesterday and today where we talked about how long a football field is and how wide a football field is,” Coach Collins said. “We talked about some defensive coverages and the true meaning behind that. Coach (Courtland) Hays talked to them about basic offensive stuff. As much information that you can give those guys at this age.”

The camp’s second day wrapped with 7-on-7 play indoors due to inclement weather. However the competitiveness the kids showed was a testament to the camp as a whole. For Parklane Academy’s Hayden Williams it was a fun, rewarding experience.

“It was really fun, I think that everybody should come to it,” he said. “(I learned) how to run faster (and) how to catch. It was really rewarding because we got to meet people who got to play in college. One played at Southern Miss, one played at Ole Miss and one played in Alabama. It was really fun.”

Eleven-year old Andrew Lott echoed this, adding that he is thankful to learn skills the proper way.

“Just working on football and learning to play football the right way,” he said. “And having fun while doing it.”

Fellow rising sixth-grader Dawson Hughes shared Lott’s thoughts saying that for him the camp was a success despite having to do everything indoors.

“We actually got to do everything inside that we could have done outside as well,” he said.

For Collins, holding the camp this week was like a bit of nostalgia, personally.

“I remember going to my first football camp at LSU when Gerry DiNardo was the head coach. I still have that paper saying that I ran a 5.2 when I was 5-10 in the seventh grade. I just keep stuff like that. The kids can look back and see how far they have gone and how they developed. You want to progress the older that you get and the more mature that you get. That camp was an experience for me and I just hold on to things like that.”

And while Collins says that he has received some praise from parents due to what the kids learned at camp, he in turn praised the campers.

“I’ll tell you what, if my kids have half the energy that these little kids have, we are going to win a lot of football games,” he said.

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