James River High School will hold a football camp for youth ages 7-13 on July 21 and 22 from 6 to 8:30 p.m. at the football field.
James River football coach Tim Jennings recently spoke about the upcoming camp. The camp was initially set to return in 2020, but due to the pandemic, plans changed. Last year, Jennings coached two football seasons in a calendar year, so holding a camp at the school wasn’t as easy to pull off.
“We used to do it for years,” Jennings said in a recent interview. “It kind of fizzled out for whatever reason. We’re trying to get rec football back on this end of the county. [Football in Botetourt] has decent participation, but participation is down, I think, all over the place. It varies, obviously. We play against Cave Spring and some other Roanoke area schools, and they don’t seem to have the numbers issues we have.”
Over the last number of years, participation in northern Botetourt has dwindled, according to Jennings, who mentioned that his son was one of five players from north Botetourt schools who participated in rec football last year. It’s been a while since the Botetourt rec club had enough participation from youth in northern Botetourt to play football games in Springwood.
Coaches see this in football players that arrive at James River with little to no experience playing football because of the lack of presence in northern Botetourt. Football camps like the one later this month are a way to raise awareness for hopeful youth athletes in the area to have a place to learn the game.
Mike Hall is a parent living in northern Botetourt County whose boys Tucker, 11, and Sam, 9, recently played rec football in 2021 and would like to see them continue to play. However, like many parents in northern Botetourt, traveling south takes its toll.
“The hardest part for us as a family was that Sam practiced at Boxley Field in Blue Ridge and Tucker at Read Mountain Middle School,” Hall said in a recent email. “That is almost a 70-mile round trip to take them to practice because of the lack of kids who had signed up on the northern end of the county.”
Practice times and fuel costs have gotten in the way of the trip south for parents of youth athletes in north Botetourt. Hall thinks that is part of why Botetourt’s recreational youth sports have seen a decline in participation from kids living in Eagle Rock and Arcadia.
“I have met with the county parks and rec department, and the solution is simple,” Hall continued. “If we can get enough kids signed up, then we can have teams practice and have games in the northern part of the county.”
Hall met with Jennings and they both agreed to help community engagement regarding tackle football. Reviving the James River High School youth football camp seemed to be one of the best ways to do so.
Youth will experience learning the basic skills of the game to build excitement for the upcoming season. It also allows the youth to interact with some members of James River’s current crop of football talent while learning more about football from experienced high schoolers.
The James River Football Camp isn’t limited to just kids in northern Botetourt. Jennings mentioned that he welcomes all youth athletes in the surrounding area who wish to participate.
The camp costs $20 for kids who have yet to sign up for rec league tackle football in the fall, and it’s free for boys who attend Eagle Rock, Buchanan, Breckinridge Elementary schools, or Central Academy Middle School who have already signed up for the upcoming season.
For more information about James River Football Camp, contact Mike Hall at 540-553-2205 for sign-up information. To register, please visit: forms.gle/vFc2vLkdMDkYpSXA7.