There weren't many lights on inside Weeb Ewbank Hall Friday afternoon, but the NFL's Junior Player Development (JPD) Jets' camp concluded outside under the warm July sunshine. The week-long JPD program for children ages 12-14 provided instruction at every position.
"This year we are up to 157 kids," said Ms. Barbara Farbman, a Roosevelt High School math teacher who volunteers as a coach. "This is a phenomenal program. It allows the kids to learn their positions and our coaches come from all over to teach."
Farbman and Roosevelt HS head football coach Joe Vito have helped run the program for five years, including the past four at the Jets' training complex. Vito and about 20 other local coaches volunteered their time throughout the week.
"The coaching staff has been pretty much the same for the most part, so they've got better at teaching the skills. We have a curriculum book that they give us and the guys have become so familiar with what the NFL is looking for," he said. "I just think they have really done a good job of teaching."
Vito says no player is ever pigeon-holed because there is instruction for every position. Each morning was devoted to offense while defense took priority in the afternoons.
"The coaches are all great — one isn't better than the other," said Justin Corben, a Commack native who just finished his third JPD camp. "They're all good and they teach and know every position on the field, which helps when you get into the different stations and groups. You build more on some of the basic fundamentals you learn in your own school and they just keep building more and more on it. When it comes to the game, you know more about it."
Earlier this week, Justin played some safety in a scrimmage and the RB/LB thinks he might make a position switch at some point. Jeff Corben likes that his son is learning much more than football.
"The emphasis is not just on football but being a good person," said the elder Corben. "It's about learning life skills and qualities you can take with you which to me — as a parent — is very, very important. You may only go so far in football and some of the better people are student athletes in my opinion. Through sports, they learn core values about responsibility, sportsmanship, perseverance and self-confidence."
Despite being on vacation, S Kerry Rhodes and CB/KR Justin Miller stopped by to deliver critical messages.
"Kerry was talking about his own life experiences in college and doing schoolwork. He told the kids that the NFL is a bit of a dream and it's a real good idea to work hard in school," Vito said. "That dream might happen but make sure you get your education."
Miller, who hopes to rebound from an injury-shortened 2007, spoke about the importance of position versatility.
"He played numerous positions in his career," Vito said. "I thought that was appropriate for our camp."
One of the greatest rewards for Vito and Farbman is witnessing the development of JPD graduates.
"We'll see kids sprinkled throughout the Island that played in our program and we're already seeing them on varsity teams since we started the program five years ago," Vito said. "Guys that came here as 12-year-olds are now playing for their varsity and possibly are even in their senior years."
The football development at the Weeb will continue throughout the weekend as USA Football hosts its coaching clinic on Saturday. About 120 youth football coaches are expected at the sold out event as they'll learn effective ways to develop and organize, teach proper fundamentals, implement drills and communicate with players, parents and other coaches.