The seventh annual Next Level Elite Camp returned this year to the community with the same goal — to teach football skills to student-athletes in the area — Saturday, June 24, at the Walker Field in Winter Garden.
“The camp is not only about me; it’s bigger than football,” West Orange High School outside linebacker coach Brandon Griffin said. “It’s never been about me. … It’s about bringing positivity to the kids.”
Between 100 and 150 children ages 6 to 14 participated in the camp, where they learned position-related skills under the guidance of 10 to 15 coaches and WOHS student-athletes who are part of the football team.
Some of the drills athletes were able to practice during the camp included changing direction, lateral movement and working on false queues.
WOHS rising junior Ivan Taylor, 16, and rising senior Jordan Bridgewater, 17, have volunteered at the camp to help spread the love for the game for a couple of years now, and they are happy to continue being a part of it.
“It’s cool to see kids (who) have been here before and see their improvement,” Bridgewater said. “That’s what I look forward when I come out here, and seeing fresh faces (while) trying to give them the knowledge I have for the game and why I love it.”
From the first year the camp started back in 2015, the number of children who have attended the camp has doubled — from 75 to almost 150 athletes.
“I just (wanted) to do something I didn’t have the opportunity to do growing up,” Griffin said. “Every camp that I always attended as a kid, even in high school, we had to pay for it, so I thought this would be a great way to give back to the community.”
For three hours, all campers are able to learn how to become a better football player and an ever better person through the knowledge coaches and volunteers pass along to them in each of the position-related stations.
“Just because you are a good athlete doesn’t mean you get to do what you want,” Griffin said. “The importance to me of this camp (is that) even though we are teaching and talking football, I want all the kids to know that even though you can be a great athlete, you also have to be an even better person.”
Recent WOHS and University of Florida rising freshman Jordan Castell, 19, already was at Gainesville training with the Gators football team, when he decided to return home for a couple of days to help with the camp.
“This event brings the community together,” he said. “It’s good to come back to the community and help with this camp. A lot of kids here look up to me and want to be in the place that I’m today. So, coming back and being around Winter Garden and (getting to know) these kids and them (getting to know) me, it feels special. I love building (their) confidence and just show them that there are different ways of getting our of here.”
And, what is the most special part about this camp? Everyone who is part of it does it because of their love for the sport.
“Everybody (volunteers) from the heart, because they care,” Griffin said.
Staff writer Andrea Mujica covers sports, news and features. She holds both a bachelor's degree in journalism and an MBA from the University of Central Florida. When she’s not on the sidelines, you can find Andrea coaching rowers at the Orlando Area Rowing Society in Windermere.