Students tackle life’s obstacles

Published 12:00 am Thursday, May 30, 2002


LULING – Students from Lakewood Elementary in Luling got a taste of NFL training Thursday morning, when the Saints Junior Training Camp visited the school. Sixth grade students crashed over foam dummies and tumbled onto thick pads to catch a pass and simulate the rigors of the gridiron and what professional players run through in practice. Groups of both boys and girls performed the various running and jumping tasks at five different stations, while classmates waited in line cheering.

“The drills are taken from actual training camp drills, but modified to be a little easier and more fun,” explained Jason Trosclair, the Saints’ youth program manager. “They were designed with football and fun in mind and all have a start and finish line to give the kids a sense of accomplishment.”

The junior training camp was one of the activities offered last school year as part of the school’s enrichment program, which offers the students a chance to engage in activities they are interested in trying, but usually don’t have a chance to enjoy. This year, the event was only offered to sixth graders as an extra-curricular activity.

“This year we didn’t include the camp in the interest clusters because the kids had so much fun last year, we were afraid everyone would sign up for it,” said sixth grade teacher Claire Brauninger.

She said the students chose three activities they would like to learn more about, including horseback riding, seafood boiling, tennis and science. Toward the end of the year, teachers divide the students into groups.

Brauninger said most of the children already have experience with athletics because of the area’s availability of sports programs. One of the teachers’ favorite aspects of the camp is that both boys and girls can participate, no matter how athletic they are.

“The girls have just as much fun as the boys and it doesn’t matter if any of the kids have athletic ability or not,” she continued. “It’s just a fun time for the kids.”

The camp is a joint effort by the Saints, Lakewood Elementary and the PTO, which placed parent volunteers at every station, helping the teachers and camp organizers watch over the children and keep the activities moving smoothly. Saints players make appearances at some of the junior camp events, but no players were available for Thursday’s activities.

“The students were excited, none were discouraged when they found out no players would be here,” said sixth grade teacher Heather Riviere.

“The kids want to see us out there making fools of ourselves,” explained sixth grade teacher Dunia Kennedy.

The simulation began after a motivational speech by Trosclair, who explained what it takes to be successful in life through setting goals and staying in school.

Trosclair said the Saints were the second NFL team, behind the Miami Dolphins, to begin the youth program in 1998. Since then, almost every team across the league has developed its own such program.

“But us and the Dolphins are by far the most active,” said Trosclair. “We are out at least two or three days each week, year-round.”

The Saints Junior Training Camp travels as far as Alexandria, Mobile and Pensacola for various events.

He said the camp continues to grow each year, with Gatorade sponsoring the activities this year.

“Gatorade’s purpose is to teach the students not only about their product, but about the importance of rehydration. They also provide all of the equipment,” said Trosclair.

“The response has been overwhelming. They all want you to come back again tomorrow.”