LATROBE, Pa. - Before the Steelers take the field for their afternoon practice each day, youth football players from the Western Pennsylvania area get to enjoy a special taste of being at training camp as part of a program the Steelers and Dick's Sporting Goods have teamed up for.
Kids play for 60 minutes at the Steelers training camp.
"We bring a different youth football team to training camp every day," said Mike Marchinsky, the Steelers Youth Football marketing manager. "We do a Heads Up Football training with them, and all of the teams we invite to camp are already Heads Up certified."
The training sessions, which are held right on the fields at Saint Vincent College, are conducted by Steelers' assistant coaches. Can you imagine being an eight-year old football players and linebackers coach Joey Porter giving you tips? It makes for a fun experience, but also a great learning experience for them.
"It's great for them to learn from our coaches," said Marchinsky. "They are learning from the best."
After the Heads Up Football training session the players make their way to where the Steelers enter the field for practice, forming two lines that the players run through. It's a great sight to see as the Steelers' high-five the kids, shake hands, and just enjoy the enthusiasm the kids bring.
"It's an opportunity for them to visit our camp, see our players, and see the way they train," said Marchinsky. "Plus it gets our guys fired up for practice when the kids are cheering for them heading down to the field. They remember when they were kids and it reminds them how fun football is.
"The kids are excited too. I get emails from the teams saying they don't know who is more excited, the coaches or the youth players. Everybody gets fired up for it."
The program is part of a continuing relationship the Steelers have with youth football organizations in the area that includes Play60 events, Youth Football Camps, as well as camps and training sessions for youth football coaches.
"Every team that we have partnered with over the past few years, all have told me their number of participants are increasing," said Marchinsky. "The association with us, and the ability to let kids experience the unique things we do with them, spreads through the community.
"It's growing youth football. It's growing teams. And it's growing the interest in partnering with us."