'Ode to Joy'

'Ode to Joy'

April 8, 2011

Marines partner with youth football camp

Staff Sgt. Christopher H. Miller, an instructor at the Drill Instructor School, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island, S.C., speaks to players attending the Junior Rank Diamond Flight football camp Mar. 25. High school juniors and seniors in attendance participated in leadership and character development training with Miller as part of the new Proving Ground component of the camp. (Official Marine Corps Photo)

By Lance Cpl. David Flynn, Marine Corps Recruiting Command  

Some of the finest young football players in the Jacksonville, Fla., area teamed up with a few of America’s finest warriors as the Marines took over the Junior Rank Diamond Flight football camp Mar. 25-27.

The Marine Corps Recruiting Command has teamed up with Junior Rank to share its core values of honor, courage and commitment in an environment promoting academic and athletic excellence.

Junior Rank was founded in 2008 by Shaon Berry, a youth football coach and former University of Pittsburgh running back. The goal of the program is to develop the next generation of student athletes through education, evaluation and instruction. Football players from middle school age all the way up to high school seniors can attend the camps.

“I think the Junior Rank program is awesome,” said Sylvester Pinckney, father of 5th grade camp participant Jarrell Pinckney. “[Shaon Berry] has put together a great team. It’s a great group of people there and they have great partners like the Marines.”

The Marines were at the camp to physically train the players and to teach them leadership and discipline.

 “We were there to assist in physical training, developing the player’s character and to teach them the life skills a person needs to be a quality citizen,” said Capt. Martin Galvancastillo, project officer for Junior Rank, MCRC. “The Marines served as mentors for [the football players].”

As part of the Marine Corps’ partnership with Junior Rank, a new component to the camp called “Proving Ground” was established. In Proving Ground, high school juniors and seniors participating in the camp had the opportunity to do football drills along with leadership and character development training with a Marine Corps drill instructor. 

According to Capt. Brad A. Goldvarg, recruitment advertising officer and officer-in-charge for the event, 6th Marine Corps District, parents liked seeing the Marines instill their brand of discipline on the players.

“Most parents were enthusiastic about their kids being taught discipline and instant obedience to orders,” said Goldvarg.

During football drills, the Marines motivated players and reinforced what their coaches told them.

“The Marines set the tone of the camp,” said Pinckney. “Football is similar to the military because players must have the discipline to do what the coach is telling them just like a Marine must have it when his commanding officer orders him to do something. The dedication [the Marines] brought from their training really showed.”

The players enjoyed the presence of the Marines as well.

“The players like having the Marines there because they helped push them to their limits,” said Sgt. Charles McKelvey, marketing and public affairs representative, Recruiting Station Atlanta. “The players saw how hard the Marines pushed themselves and liked that.”

According to Pinckney, the camp left a great impression on his young wide receiver.

“[Jarrell] truly loved it,” said Pinckney. “He’s still talking about what a great time he had.”

In addition to the physical training, the Marines also hosted a leadership seminar designed to engage the young players in character development activities and to teach them skills to help them lead both on and off the football field.

“The goal was to teach them that anyone can lead,” said Goldvarg. “It doesn’t matter if you’re the oldest, the strongest or have the most money.”

“The Marines taught the kids about discipline and having good character,” said Pinckney. “You must have both whether you are in the military or on a football team. The kids have to be mentally tough. Not everyone can be a professional football player and the Marines taught the kids that they still have the opportunity to do great things by serving in the military.”

Looking ahead, the Marine Corps will team up with Junior Rank for many more camps across the country during 2011. To find out when Junior Rank and the Marines will be in your area or for more information, visit http://www.juniorrank.com/ .

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