All-Star Football Camps helping to grow sport in Vermont

High school and youth players turn out in large numbers
High school and youth players turn out in large numbers
Published: Aug. 4, 2022 at 11:58 PM EDT
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SOUTH BURLINGTON, Vt. (WCAX) - On a muggy night at South Burlington High School, you could hear the pads popping, whistles blowing, and the good natured smack talk already firing up. We may still be a month away from the start of football season, but you wouldn’t know it looking at these kids.

“I’m just thinking about like the future of my team,” said Jordan D’Amico, a rising senior at Mt. Mansfield. “I’m meant to be a leader, a captain. I’m gonna go out there and do everything I can. More than everyone else is gonna do.”

It’s the Northern edition of the Vermont All-Star Football Camp. The tradition dates back several decades in the Green Mountain State.

“Vermont All-Star Football Camp is a 40 year old tradition, bringing guys out in July and getting a better at football,” said head coach at the camp Chris Redding. “It’s an opportunity for kids fourth grade all the way to 12th grade to come out and compete.”

Redding has a strong pedigree in the game of football.

“I played at Mount Anthony for three years and then Burr and Burton for my senior year,” he said. “I was lucky enough to go on the University of New Hampshire and play college football there. I’ve coached high school football in North Carolina and then college football at the University at Albany.”

There has long been talk of the sport being on the decline in Vermont, with the elimination of D4 back in 2006, the consolidation of programs even among some of the biggest schools in the state, and even the loss of one of Vermont’s most storied programs in MSJ. But Redding says a dramatic increase in the number of campers suggests football might be back on the upswing.

“It warms my heart to see the amount of kids that come out in the summer,” Redding said. “They could be anywhere else. They could be at the lake with their families, camping, and they decide to come play football with some tremendous coaches. We’re at about 50% more kids than we had last year, which is a huge, huge increase. And what that shows to me is that there’s some interest.”

Castleton defensive coordinator Tyler Higley is one of the other coaches at the camp and he says as the numbers have increased, so has the level of talent.

“We always say we wanna find the best kids in the state of Vermont,” Higley said of his Spartan program, the only one at a public university in the state. “I’m seeing players getting better. I really am, from maybe three years ago. It’s not necessarily a knock on anyone else, I just think they’re putting the time in camps like this, where people are getting better and teams are getting better. Numbers are growing, and I think it’s gonna be competitive all the way from division one down division three in high school football.”

For the campers, it’s a chance to get to know and test themselves against some of their rivals from other schools.

“It’s good because I know the competition,” said Archer Erwin, a youth football player for Chittenden East. “I know some of the competition now and like I can see how to like pace myself. When I go into the season, I know how to play.”

“I like how it also promotes a sense of community with the kids,” D’Amico added. “I see kids I came to camp with in season. After the game, we shake hands. It’s a good community thing.”

And they hope to take the lessons learned in July back to their own teams’ camps in August.

“You get a chance to see where you stand amongst your peers in July,” Redding said. “And if you’re winning, that’s great. I gotta keep going. If you’re losing, it gives you a chance to really say, ‘Hey, what am I not doing well and what can I do better over the next month? So that way, when I get my chance in September, October, November, I’m ready to go against the guy I’ve already played.’”

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