At the youth football clinic last weekend, UC football players learned valuable lessons about service all while providing unforgettable unique experiences for the collection of kids participating.
By Ashley Davis/Special to GoBearcats.com
CINCINNATI -- Junior running back Ralph David Abernathy IV might have had the biggest smile on his face of the almost 500 kids and 80 teammates who participated in the UC football youth clinic at Sheakley Athletics Center on April 6.
Running around, high-fiving kids and getting them pumped up with chants of "Are you ready?" could be heard across the field.
It was Abernathy's second year participating in the event and his favorite part is just interacting and having fun with kids in the community.
"Just getting the chance to come out here and enjoy it," he said. "For us, football's always been fun. But now we get to share our fun with somebody else."
The kids, ranging in age from kindergarten to eighth grade and all from the Greater Cincinnati area, came to learn basic football fundamentals from almost all of the UC football players. Most of the UC coaches also participated.
Antrione Archer, the director of player development and responsible for running the camp, says the youth clinic is a great opportunity for kids to be able to say they were on the field at UC with Bearcats players right after a scrimmage when the players are still in their game gear.
"It's all about getting them while they're young, planting the seed into their hearts," Archer said. "The whole goal is to talk to the community and show these kids a good time that maybe one day in the future they can take the right route and go to college."
The clinic started with stretching lines, just as the players do in their own practice. Then the kids, divided up by age groups, went to different stations to do drills. There was a catch and celebrate drill where the kids got to catch a touchdown in the end zone and do a touchdown dance. Others included a sack the quarterback drill, an interception drill and an equipment race.
Of course, the clinic did not go without some Bearcat spirit either, as Archer led the kids in the Down the Drive chant before and after the drills and the players had them huddle up at the end of every drill, putting their hands in the middle and shouting 1-2-3, Bearcats.
Abernathy led the run and leap drill with the other Bearcat running backs. The kids had to run through pads while holding tight to a ball and leaping onto another pad as if they were scoring a touchdown. Abernathy and the rest of the running backs assured the kids performed their touchdown dance after scoring.
Deionte Buckley, a sophomore running back, also understands what this means.
"It's a great experience for the kids," he said. "They get to watch us a lot, but they never get to see our faces because we keep the helmets on. I think it's a great day for them and a great day for Bearcat Nation."
But it's not just about the kids. The clinic is important for the players, too. It teaches them how to lead and coach, while being able to interact with the community.
"It teaches the players how to serve," Archer said. "They have a platform, whether they like it or not, being a Division I athlete, especially at the University of Cincinnati. But it also humbles them to let them know that this is bigger than any individual person."
Abernathy knows UC football is his platform and he is a role model, especially for young kids. And that's why he did everything he could to maintain a positive attitude while making sure the kids had fun at his station last Saturday afternoon.
"As a college athlete, a lot of people look up to you," he said. "They look to you like you're their hero."