Every summer, a flurry of activity takes place at Buford City Schools’ sports facilities as athletic teams from Buford High School host week-long youth camps for each sport.
The North Gwinnett Voice had the opportunity to visit two youth camps this summer — baseball and football. Between the two camps, approximately 450 local children got hands-on experience and learned skills from area coaches.
Not only do the youth receive instruction from high school coaches, high school players work the camps as well. Players are assigned to a group for the week and serve as mentors to camp participants.
“These campers come out all year to see our guys play and they want to go out on the high school field,” said Stuart Chester, Buford High School head baseball coach. “They want to see our players. I think it just really helps combine generations together because it won’t be long before these campers will be where Jackson Gaspard and Dylan Lesko are. It is about building relationships and keeping that Buford tradition alive.”
Typically, recent graduates do not come back to be a part of the youth camps, but three Class of 2022 baseball players returned to the baseball camp on the final day to spend time with the campers. Jackson Gaspard, Dylan Lesko and Andrew McMurray signed more than 200 autographs each for the campers who came through the home team dugout awestruck.
“I like to do this, honestly,” Gaspard said. “We did it last year and it was a lot of fun being around the kids, giving back.”
This summer’s football camp was a huge success, drawing the most campers to date, according to head football coach Bryant Appling. As with the baseball camp, participants were divided into age groups and a coach and high school football players were assigned to each group.
“It’s a chance for them to get out there and pour a little into the kids for a couple of days at camp,” Appling said of his high school players. “Also, it teaches them how sometimes little ears don’t listen very well and when we are frustrated with them (the high school players), they say, ‘Hey coach, I see why you are frustrated with me because these kids won’t listen to me either.’”
As campers enthusiastically ran through the drills even in the scorching heat, high schoolers were just as enthusiastic, encouraging the campers to do their best.
“The biggest thing for me and for our coaching staff is to get these (high schoolers) to understand their impact,” Appling said. “Their reach is a lot further than they think.”
“That’s the future,” said Eddrick Houston, Class of 2024 tight end/defensive end for the Wolves. “I just want them to feel accepted as they come up to high school because once we leave, I want them to feel loved up here, to tell their friends about how much we poured into them the same way the coaching staff poured into us.”
FEATURED PHOTO: On the final day of the 2022 Buford Youth Football Camp, campers, high school football players and coaches gather for a group photo to commemorate the camp. Photo by Alicia Payne.