Riggins Mentoring Youth Through Sports, 49ers RB Speaks to Players
By: Danny Aiello Jr
Now it the 9th year of the program, Eric Riggins Sr. has had a clear message for those attending his annual football camp: It goes beyond the field.
Surrounded by around 30 kids ranging from ages six to high school, Riggins looked right back at home on the football field delivering his message while putting the kids through football exercises.
Nine years ago Riggins started his football camp to save the youth.
“When I was a kid, sports is what helped me focus on going good in school because without good grades I couldn’t play.” Riggins said. “It also helped me stay out of trouble. That is what I want for these kids.”
Coach Riggins wants the best for the youth and feels sports will help them stay away from drugs and going down the wrong path through life.
The camp has evolved since then, and Riggins would like to expand his camp into more of a mentorship program.
“I would love to be able to mentor the youth.” Riggins said. “There is a lot more to these kids then people, coaches, anyone realizes.”
By spending time with the kids, Riggins and the staff learn what makes them tick and how to push them in a productive way to get the most out of them on and off the field.
“It starts in the home,” Riggins said. “You never truly know what is going on at home. There could be a kid from a single parent home, or one who has had it rough. It is about finding out about them and making sure they know this isn’t it.”
Riggins stressed the importance for youth to know that Hernando County isn’t the end for them. They can go on to do bigger and better things in different places if they put their mind to it.
Around 50 kids come out each year. Though this camp is a lot of fun it is also very beneficial. He pushes these kids really hard and it is very competitive.
He wants to push these kids to their max and show them that whatever they put their mind to they can accomplish.
“Sports doesn’t just teach you different plays and make you more fit.” Riggins said. “Sports teaches you life lessons, compassion, unity and for some kids this is their only way out of the lifestyle they live.”
Tuesday, at Ernie Weaver Youth Park, Riggins had guest speaker DuJuan “Foxx” Harris come speak to his campers.
Harris, a Central High graduate, plays running back for the San Francisco 49ers of the National Football League.
During the 20 minute Q&A session with the campers, Harris fielded questions ranging from who his favorite players were to how he got to where he was.
His statements seemed to echo that of Riggins.
“You have to want to be the best in whatever you do.” Harris told the kids. “This life like anything can be taken away from you in an instant, so you have to go out every day and try to be the best.”
As Harris spoke the kids began understanding a very clear message uttered from both Riggins and the tailback.
Your attitude will define you.
Both men stressed to the campers that a bad attitude will follow you throughout your lives and leave an everlasting impact.
“You have a bad attitude, it will stay with you.” Riggins said. “What starts as a bad morning, leads to a bad day at school, then out here, then you go home and are bad to your parents.”
Another point heavily stressed was working hard. Regardless of a classroom or athletic setting both Harris and Riggins agreed that working hard would make the campers more positive members of their community.
“Nobody can do it for you.” Harris said. “You guys have got to put in the work to better yourself each and every day. Not your parents, not your coaches, we can’t do it for you. I’ve been in the NFL for five seasons now and I still put in the work every day to get better.”
The day ended on a fun note, with Harris signing autographs and taking pictures with the campers.
“At the end of the day we have fun here.” Riggins said. “We work hard, but we have fun.”
The first 5 years the camp was free but due to the capacity of participants the camp now requires a small fee. For more information visit their website itisallabouttheyouth.org
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