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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, June 3, 2004

NFL youth clinic comes to Hawai'i

By Brandon Masuoka
Advertiser Staff Writer

Arnold Martinez, head football coach at Moanalua High School, is grateful the NFL is donating name-brand equipment and free gear for participants in its youth football clinic. Players only need their own shoes.

Rebecca Breyer • The Honolulu Advertiser

NFL Junior Player Development Program

Who can participate: Boys and girls ages 12 to 14. No weight limit. First 180 players at each of the three sites with completed waiver forms will be allowed to sign up. Forms include a medical waiver, participation waiver and birth certificate.

Where to register: Moanalua High School, June 11, from 4 to 8:30 p.m. at the football stadium. For Campbell High and 'Aiea High, visit campus offices.

Camp sites: Moanalua High School, June 14-19 (M-F, 4 to 8:30 p.m.; Sat., 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.); Campbell High School, June 28-July 3 (M-F, 3:30 to 6:30 p.m.; Sat., 8 to 11 a.m.); 'Aiea High School, July 12-17 (site and times to be determined).

Goodies: Each participant gets a free NFL practice jersey, NFL football and NFL bag.

More information:

Moanalua, head coach Arnold Martinez, 368-7673; or download forms from mohs.k12.hi.us and click on "Enter Our Main Homepage" then click on the Football! link at the top); Campbell, head coach Tumoana Kennesy, 689-1200; 'Aiea, head coach Wendell Say, 483-7300, ext. 234.

NFL.com also has details on Junior Player Development camps.

When a nationally recognized youth football clinic debuts in Hawai'i this month, count on 13-year-old Derek Santos being there.

The Kahuku Intermediate eighth-grader sees the NFL's Junior Player Development Program — a free clinic that donates name-brand equipment and free gear for hundreds of participants — as a stepping stone to fulfilling his football dreams for high school, college and the pros.

"I was actually thinking of all three of them," said Santos, who plays on the offensive and defensive lines, and is the foster son of state champion Kahuku High football coach Siuaki Livai. "Play for Kahuku and probably get a scholarship to college, and hopefully go to the pros."

This summer, the NFL is investing millions of dollars in youth football players such as Santos to protect its future.

Faced with dwindling youth participation in football, the NFL is banking on its $160 million nationwide football clinics to rekindle interest and restock the sport.

The full-contact, full-gear clinics will be held at Moanalua, Campbell and 'Aiea high schools starting June 14. Taught by Hawai'i coaches, the NFL-sponsored clinics will be open to the first 180 youngsters ages 12 to 14 at each site.

Jerry Horowitz, the NFL's national coordinator for junior player and high school player development, said the league wants more youth involved in football.

"The trend is basically kids are not participating in football like they used to years ago," said Horowitz, who pointed to the elimination of youth athletic programs and the downsizing of school teams as reasons for the decline.

"There are 10 million kids playing basketball and soccer, and only 2.8 million kids playing football. It's something that we have to pay attention to," he said.

In Hawai'i, however, interest in football remains strong with scores of young athletes wanting to play football and fans of high school teams filling the bleachers.

This summer, the NFL's Junior Player Development Program added Hawai'i to its list of 80 clinic sites around the country.

Clinic organizers said Hawai'i's unique Pro Bowl relationship and football talent made the state a perfect fit for the clinic. The clinics, normally reserved for NFL franchise areas, have more than 14,000 participants nationwide.

"I think it's great," Santos said. He said he plans to encourage his friends and Hau'ula Pop Warner teammates to try out for the clinics. "It helps everybody who never played before, and it also gives everybody free gear so that the coaches have less of a hassle buying helmets and stuff."

All players get to keep their practice jersey, and will receive a football and an NFL bag to store their jersey.

Keith Amemiya, the Hawai'i High School Athletic Association executive director and coordinator for the clinics, said Horowitz scheduled the clinics here after seeing Hawai'i's young football talent at six elementary school clinics during this year's Pro Bowl festivities.

"(Horowitz) was so impressed with the enthusiasm and skill level of the elementary students, that he felt the program would be a natural for Hawai'i," said Amemiya, who is also serving as Hawai'i's Junior Player Development Program coordinator.

Amemiya said while the Mainland is seeing dwindling interest in youth football, Hawai'i high schools are bucking the trend.

"Football is king in Hawai'i, both in terms of fan interest and the amount of revenue it generates for the HHSAA and its member schools," Amemiya said. "Our state football tournament alone probably generates more revenue than all other state tournaments combined."

Amemiya said he wants more schools to host the clinics in the future.

"Eventually we hope to bring the clinic to every high school in the state," he said.

Organizers said the clinics are open to boys and girls, and are designed to teach fundamentals at every position. Offensive and defensive schemes will also be taught.

For safety, the clinics will group participants of similar physique to prevent mismatches and injuries.

"It is their (NFL) curriculum; it is not ours," said Moanalua High School football coach Arnold Martinez, who will run the first clinic.

Martinez said the 180 players will be divided into two lightweight teams, two middleweight teams and two heavyweight teams.

"It's very unique because every kid gets to experience playing every position and (learn) all the basic techniques for all positions. ... This is to help promote the game of football."

"There's a lot of fundamentals, but it is contact," he said. "We will have 11-on-11 competition. But the first part is going to be a lot of fundamentals they need to be successful as a football player."

The NFL donated 200 sets of new equipment — shoulder pads, helmets, thigh pads, pants, mouthpieces and other gear — to be used in the clinics. Participants need to bring their own football shoes.

"The equipment is the biggest challenge a lot of times," Amemiya said. "The NFL is eliminating the biggest hurdle to have a program like this."

Martinez said NFL officials were surprised some Hawai'i teens were restricted from playing youth football because of their large sizes. The NFL-sponsored clinic has no weight limit.

"They witnessed a lot of boys who got weight-classed out," Martinez said. "They wanted to get those boys who normally wouldn't get a chance to play Pop Warner football.

"It's a really big program," Martinez said. "It's tested. I think its great for the kids. Plus, it's free."

Horowitz said the development program could become an annual event in Hawai'i. The NFL will store the equipment in Hawai'i after the clinics are finished.

Other NFL-sponsored clinics could also come to Hawai'i including an NFL High School Player Development program for older players.

"We're thinking this is something that's going to continue for quite some time, maybe even get bigger and add a high school player program to it as well," Horowitz said.

That would be very sweet for players like Santos.