Football: RTHS kicks off annual RJT summer camp

RTHS head football coach Kyle Kissack speaks to the group of young athletes in attendance during the annual RJT summer camp on Tuesday. (Photo by Russell Hodges)

Youth players work directly with high school coaches and athletes

ROCHELLE — The Rochelle Township High School football program kicked off its annual Rochelle Junior Tackle summer camp earlier this week. Athletes ranging from first through eighth grade attended the four-day camp, which concluded Thursday evening at RTHS.

The RJT camp allows young players to work directly with RTHS coaches and student-athletes as well as RJT coaches for the upcoming fall season. Head football coach Kyle Kissack said that around 250 athletes across multiple grade levels participated in the RJT camp this week.

“We’re really encouraged by the number of kids we had at our camp,” Kissack said. “There’s a lot of momentum and a lot of excitement. We have a lot to build on and we want to keep that momentum going. We treat these kids very similarly to how we treat our high school kids. We strip everything down to the very basics and talk about things like alignment, footwork, hand-offs and pad level. Those kinds of things will be building blocks as they prepare for RJT practice.”

Athletes between fifth and eighth grade took advantage of the four-day camp, working through team and individual drills on both sides of the ball as they prepared to begin the RJT season, which begins with practices on Monday, July 25 at Helms Park. Each of the four grade levels received RJT equipment before each day of camp. The RJT camp, which takes place at the RTHS practice fields every summer, was held Monday through Thursday from 6-7:30 p.m. 

“We install a few schematic things offensively and defensively that they continue to work on through the Junior Tackle program,” Kissack said. “The Junior Tackle program has been one of the best assets in our community and the guys who are involved in the program are deeply invested and they care deeply about what happens at both levels. They understand that our success on Friday nights is directly related to our success at the Junior Tackle level.” 

Athletes between first and fourth grade also participated in the RJT camp and will be starting flag football on Monday, July 25. Practices will run from 5:30-6:30 at Rochelle Middle School and games will begin on Tuesday, Aug. 9. Tackle football practices will run from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at Helms Park and players must participate in at least 10 practices to be eligible for games. RJT will host Sterling in Week 1 of the 2022 season, with games taking place on Saturday, Aug. 13.

“We’re very fortunate as a high school program that we have such a healthy Junior Tackle program,” Kissack said. “I hope all of our kids leave the RJT camp with a new excitement for football. We want them to be hungry for more and we want them thinking about football. Maintaining that excitement we’ve gathered over the last few years is really important to us.”