In the age of mobile communication, word of mouth still carries some weight.
"When a college coach comes into Chesterton, they may be looking at one or two of our kids, but they always ask who else they should be looking at," Trojans football coach John Snyder said. "If a coach keeps hearing a kid's name over and over, those are kids they're going to go see, to find out if they're as good as everybody says."
Until a few years ago, The Region Elite Passing School (REPS) provided area football players a stage to get their talents seen and names known. This spring, it will once again, as Snyder, Portage's Wally McCormack, Hobart's Ryan Turley and Michigan City's Mike Karpinski have teamed to bring back REPS.
"A number of directors were going different directions in their careers and it just became difficult to keep going," Snyder said. "We always felt it was a good camp and good for the kids of Northwest Indiana, and we really felt there was the need for the camp again. It had a big impact on kids not getting the opportunity to be seen. I think it does a kid a disservice."
Snyder used West Side star Lonnie Johnson as a 'for example.' Some area coaches didn't even know who Johnson was when he was being offered by Ohio State last year. Now, Cougars coach Jason Johnson plans to get involved with the camp.
"At REPS, you usually see all the top talent in Northwest Indiana, whether it's from Gary, Valpo, Chesterton, wherever," Snyder said. "If we're not going to do it here, they're going to go somewhere else. The SOS Camp has grown incredibly big. We had a young quarterback and dad driving to Indianapolis. We admire them wanting to do that, but it didn't make sense for them to have to drive two-and-a-half hours there and back to do the same camp we're doing."
The coaches pitched the idea at the district all-star meeting in the spring and the response was positive. Other than staffing and spreading the word, everything is set. The camp, which now includes a segment for punters and kickers coordinated by Kyle Yelton (Chesterton/Illinois) and Bill Manolopoulos (Hobart/IU), concludes with a College Showcase Night on May 1.
"There aren't the opportunities for football to get out and do like a lot of sports," Snyder said. "We're limited to the summer, then we're paying major dollars to go to a campus and be one of several kids at the same spot. We've been always been the most affordable (camp) and there's nothing else going on when we're doing it."
While the camp may be a pebble into the ocean compared to what schools can do in the South, where high schools are allowed to hold spring football practice, it's a step in the right direction.
"You break it down by season, over four years, they're getting almost two seasons of practice in the spring that our kids never, ever get," Snyder said. "It's a trend that's happening at every level and in my opinion, we're falling much further behind."
This column solely represents the writer's opinion. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org