The Washington Redskins Charitable Foundation hosted their annual youth flag football clinic at the Bon Secours Washington Redskins Training Center in Richmond, Va., on Tuesday.
Roughly100 students from Richmond area non-profit organizations participated in skills training, team building exercises and flag football games led by officials from the Hampton Roads Sports Officials Association and Redskins alumni Brad Edwards, Ricky Ervins and Dion Foxx, who were honorary captains. Ervins led running back skills training that included ball carrying, agility and sprinting drills. Edwards, wearing his Super Bowl XXVI ring, instructed students on route running while Foxx oversaw catching exercises.
Kids had the opportunity to practice on the field and participate in drills with Redskins Alumni players Ricky Ervins, Brad Edwards, and Dion Foxx.
Edwards, Ervins and Foxx have all been mentoring and working with students since they retired from the NFL, and they see a value in the flag football clinic that extends far beyond the lines of the field.
"It's really one of the last true experiential laboratories for teaching leadership and life skills," Edwards said. "A young person can come in and experience and learn what it means to be a real true teammate, to learn how to handle failure in a safe environment, to talk about accountability and learn about accountability and what that means, to learn about positive motivation, dealing with negative motivators, dealing with time management, it's one of the best places in the world for teaching it. And that's life."
Edwards, who is now the athletic director at George Mason University, has always made it his mission in life to impact the lives of young people. To him, the clinic represented one step on the larger path of developing adults who will soon be cultivating their own leadership styles.
"The idea is to equip them, train them, motivate them, so they can go out and leave the world a better place when they go into their own versions of individual leadership roles post-education," Edwards said. "The other step to that is hiring great coaches who can water that on a day-to-day basis who are positive, double goaled kind of coaches. It's the grassroots component. Ultimately you're trying to get outreach to everyone in that chain if you will. Kids that are just starting out with all the camps that we do, as many young people as you can fit into that pipeline you're trying to affect in a positive way."
Foxx never had the luxury of learning football skills from NFL players when he was growing up in Richmond, Va., but he still went on to play linebacker for the Redskins. Now a school teacher and coach in Richmond, Foxx has dedicated himself to the dual role of father figure and football coach that shaped him when he was young. To him, wins and losses in youth football games pale in comparison to ensuring that the players become successful members of society when they graduate high school.
"It's not just football, it helps you prepare yourself for real life, "Foxx said. "Discipline. Get up, show up, do what you're supposed to do when you're supposed to do it. Make sure you're on time, make sure you listen to directions. All these things you do when you graduate high school, go to college, find a job. All these things happen. You get a lot of these fundamentals and characteristics and learn these things growing up going through something as structured as this...but future life skills comes out of these things."
As the Redskins alumni led the clinic, Lucille Hester waded through the sea of kids 6-years-old and under that she arranged to travel from Washington, D.C. to Richmond, Va.. Hester has been organizing youth group trips to Redskins training camp since 1970, when training camp was held at Dickinson College in Carlisle, Pa.
Hester grew up in poverty in Florida but used high school sports to earn a scholarship to college in the 1950s. She used her degree to work as a physical education teacher, coach, counselor and athletic director in Washington, D.C. She has spent the last 55 years working to provide underprivileged children the same opportunities that sports offered her, and Redskins training camp is always chief among them.
"I felt that this would be something that would be good to give back," Hester said. "You can work together to have a wonderful relationship through sport...I want to offer it to everybody else."