Juniors Clinic in Orange County

St. Centralias Elementary School, Anaheim, California

This past week the Orange County Bombers were asked to put on a juniors clinic at St. Centralias Elementary School, in Anaheim, California. Assistant Coach Simon Milburn traveled out to the school expecting a small group of kids who knew nothing of Aussie Rules. He was pleasantly surprised to find approximately 50 boys and girls eagerly awaiting his arrival. He was even more surprised to find that the kids already knew most of the basic skills, and a number of the rules as well. Turns out the kids had some inside help.

Since the beginning of May, the 4th graders at St. Centralia have had daily lessons on the ins and outs of Aussie Rules. Bombers player Kevin Andersen, a 67 ruck and full-forward, is the main reason behind the Footy craze at this elementary school. Kevin teaches 4th grade at St. Centralia, and after joining up with the Orange County Bombers this past February, decided it was time to bring his new hobby into the classroom. Kevin enlisted the help of another Bomber, defenseman Steve Cassitty, who also teaches at St. Centralia. Together, the two put together a skills program for the kids, and began doing what they do bestteaching.

Juniors Clinic
Setting up a kicking drill.

The kids fell in love with Footy from the start, says Kevin. We began inside the classroom with some basic instruction on the rules and player positions, and then took the kids outside and started working with their skills. Both Kevin and Steve were quite surprised at how fast the kids were picking up the game, and the enthusiasm was also a welcome surprise. I knew most of the kids would like it, but Ive got every single kid pumped up and begging to play footy every day of the week.

Juniors Clinic
When it came time to hand out the jumpers, the girls where quicker of the mark.

St. Centralia is a lot like many schools around the country, where physical education is more and more on the chopping block due to dwindling budgets. The students attend PE just two times a week, with daily exercise dependant upon their teacher. Its up to each individual teacher to bring kids outside and let them exercise each day, says Kevin, so I figured if Aussie Rules is good exercise for me, its gotta be good for the kids. And so far so good in Kevins opinion. My kids are the best athletes in the school, states Kevin proudly, who also believes the exercise helps in their schoolwork. Ever since we initiated the physical activities, the students have been more attentive in class, and in turn, their grades have improved.

Assistant Coach Simon Milburn began the clinic with a discussion about Australian football, including topics such as rules of the game, number of players per team, roles of each position, moving the ball, field umpires, and of course the childrens favorite, the goal umpires. One mention of the goal umpires immediately sent the children into a goal signaling frenzy, in the true goal umpire fashion. Not only did the children ask questions about the game, but a flood of questions where also asked about Australia, and the land down under. But the prize for best question was handed out when, very innocently, a little voice was heard from the back of the group saying Can you please speak some Australian for us?

After the discussion the children where divided into two groups for skills coaching. Firstly the children were shown the correct way to handball. This was followed by a run through drill where each of the children would receive the ball from another child and then handball it to the next person in the line. Following on from the handball drill the children were shown the correct way to dispose of the ball by way of a kick, the technique for a correct kick was explained and the reasoning behind why accurate kicking is a very important part of the game.

After the skills coaching the group was divided up into approximately half and two teams where formed. But there was one slight problem. both teams wanted to be the Bombers. This was easily overcome as one team became the Orange County Bombers, and the other team became the Essendon Bombers.

The game was of a very high standard, with some long kicks and great handballs, but the explanation of the forward line and back line section of the clinic must have fallen on deaf ears, as the play could very regularly be described as ants around a sugar bowl.

In any case, the game was played in a great spirit and the children all commented on how much fun it was. With a well-deserved summer break coming up, the kids will be without their new sport for a few months. But come September, the Orange County Bombers will be back out to continue teaching and coaching Aussie Rules.

Final scores:
Orange County Bombers 1 0 6
Essendon Bombers 0 4 4

The Orange County Bombers would like to thank all the children that took part in the day, and would like to thank the staff of St. Centralias Elementary School for giving them the opportunity to come along and meet with the children. Also, a special thanks is in order for Kevin Anderson, Steve Cassitty, and Simon Milburn for their dedication to the juniors program here in Orange County.

David Thurmond

Orange County Bombers

- David Thurmond

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