Newberg Youth Football hosted its annual camp and saw nearly 50 participants this year

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Newberg Youth Football camp puts kids through a bevy of drills, many of them improving skills such as footwork.

Every summer, football players from around the area coalesce at the Newberg Youth Football Camp, seizing the opportunity to improve their skills and have fun with friends. The camp ran four days in late June and saw four dozen kids come out this year, even when inclement weather pushed them inside for some of the time.

Newberg High School football coach Kevin Hastin organized the camp, enlisting his varsity athletes to coach and mentor the kids. He said this year's camp was a "fun week" that provided plenty of opportunities for the kids.

"I think it's been very successful," he added. "We're close to 50 campers and it's a wide range of ages. We had about 35 different varsity athletes out there coaching and helping the boys as well, so it's been a great experience for everyone."

The first day of camp was highlighted by a miniature version of the NFL scouting combine, where kids ran the 40-yard-dash and all the other drills the pros go through before the draft. Plenty of other fun, interesting games were sprinkled in with a rigorous football routine – one that Hastin said included plenty of skills work as well as conditioning and position-specific exercises.

Three hours a day for four consecutive days is hard work, Hastin said, but the value of not only improving the kids as football players – but developing relationships with them as well – makes the grind worth it.

"It's huge to start developing relationships with the youth players as soon as possible," he said. "I run multiple programs that try to connect the high school program with the youth one, from weightlifting to these camps. It's a great way to build a foundation for the program."

Hastin noted that for his varsity athletes, the opportunity to mentor the youth players has been invaluable to their personal development. The Tigers finished 5-5 last season and made the OSAA 6A playoffs. They were eliminated by No. 2 seed Clackamas in the first round.

There is an optimism and positivity around the program, Hastin said, and spending some time at the youth football camp was a great way for Newberg's returners to bond.

"It's been great for them to communicate what they've learned and be mentors to these young kids," Hastin said. "They have been a positive influence on the young campers. Those little boys look up to the varsity players and so the ability to provide an experience like that is awesome."

For the high school team, improvement may well be on the horizon. Hastin expects it, especially after how his team performed at its team camp this summer.

The Tigers held their own against some top teams. That bodes well, Hastin said, for the squad as it looks ahead to the 2019 campaign this fall. In the stands, assuredly, will be many of the young athletes that the NHS players mentored during the annual summer youth camp.

"I'm extremely excited for this next season," Hastin said. "We just came off our team camp at Lewis & Clark College along with other high schools, and we showed some serious progress. We scored twice against a Clackamas team that shut us out in the playoffs last year and I'm really happy with where we're going."

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