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Cops, coaches teach football fundamentals

By Daniel Silliman

dsilliman@news-daily.com

The Clayton County Police Department and the Parks and Recreation Department are teaming up to teach kids some of the fundamentals of football: Punting, passing and kicking.

The county's first NFL Punt, Pass & Kick competition will be held on Saturday, June 28, from 11 a.m., to 2 p.m., at Tara Stadium. The police department, as part of the youth outreach of Chief Jeff Turner's community-oriented policing, will be working with 8- to 15-year-old boys and girls.

"The whole idea is to let kids be kids," said Capt. Greg Dickens, "and give them a safe arena where they can play. They'll have the opportunity to learn the basic, fundamental skills of football, and they'll be meeting police officers. They can be with us and we can be role models and really come to mentor these kids."

The police officers will be joined by Parks and Recreation coaches, in working with the county's would-be football punters, passers and kickers. Dickens said the officers will learn from the coaches, about teaching and interacting with the youths, and the coaches will learn from the officers, about spotting signs of gangs and drugs.

Both the coaches and the police officers are volunteering their time, and the event is free for the children, and isn't costing taxpayers, Dickens said.

There will be a clinic, teaching punting, passing, kicking, and running drills, and then, there will be a competition. Those who do well enough, can go on to a state competition in an NFL stadium.

According to police, creating strong relationships between law enforcement officers and kids reduces crime and helps keep children out of trouble. Athletic events, police say, can teach children the sort of ethics valued in society.

Dickens said the event is a step toward a Police Athletic League, which would bring the youths and the officers together on a regular basis.

"It's a program we should have started years ago," Dickens said, "and if we had started it years ago, we might not be in the situation we are in today."

Those wishing to participate in the Punt, Pass & Kick event, can make reservations at (770) 473-3985, or e-mail Gregory.Dickens@co.clayton.ga.us