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This time of year, parents begin to ask me about summer camps for their son. Here is how I handled it when I coached my oldest son, John Combs.

He went to three tough camps that worked him hard and helped him improve at the linebacker position. Before his freshman season, he spent 3 days at the UK camp, working with Chuck Smith. Before his sophomore season, he spent three days at the Tennessee camp, working with Sal Sunseri. Prior to his junior year, he spent three days at the Notre Dame camp with Bob Diaco.

Google those 3 names... GREAT LINEBACKER COACHES!!

He got three tough days of hard work at each place with great coaching. At Tennessee, he had to compete daily with guys that were DBs in HS but thought they were too slow for that spot at UT, therefore they were working at LB. At Notre Dame, he primarily worked with guys that thought they were too small to be defensive linemen at that level, but were trying to play LB. John Combs had to work extremely hard to compete with those guys at camp and meet the expectations of this group of very demanding coaches. Coach Smith was tougher on him because of our friendship. At the other camps, he was just another guy... and that was good as well. At Tennessee when they got tired, they were instructed to put their hands on their helmet and stand up. When John Combs did that at Notre Dame, Coach Diaco asked him if he was surrendering and if not, take your hands off the top of your helmet! Lol. It was a great experience for him in so many ways.

To get a great work experience at camp, you do NOT have to attend a BCS camp. Georgetown College hosts a 3 day work camp. The Tigers have an outstanding program and do a wonderful job with the kids that attend there. Trosper will likely attend their camp at some point.

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John Combs in the blue helmet one morning at Notre Dame camp, June of 2013. The golden dome in the background!

Before his senior season, John Combs attended one day camps at Princeton and Yale. Princeton's interest had been significant. Yale had shown a little interest.... and we wanted to visit Yale!

Looking back on it, I think we did it right. Spend the early part of HS working to get better. Before your senior season, and if the level of interest is significant potentially junior season as well, attend camps of the schools that are showing the most interest. If no one is showing interest, pick a school where your chances to play are the most realistic and attend their camp or camps their staff is attending before your senior season.

He also benefitted from having great position coaches at Mason County... Larry Harris, Chris Ullery, & Jonathan Thomas. He had very good defensive lines in front of him as a junior and senior. A strong defensive line is a linebacker's best friend because it makes it tough for the offensive linemen to block the linebackers. No amount of camp experiences can diminish the team concept that drives the game of football. Parents and players both need to remember that.

As a Dad, the trips to Notre Dame, Tennessee, Princeton, & Yale are great memories. I am really glad we did those. And, I believe that my son became the best football player he could become. Both individually and as a team, he enjoyed a bunch of success and had a very rewarding HS football experience.

If you have specific questions about your son and summer football camps, please email me at

Bottom line, help your son enjoy the summer camp experience and playing HS football. It is a special time that goes by way too fast.

BlackShoes&WhiteShoeStrings: A Parent's Guide to Football Camp: This is how we did it