UP Football: Building a Program
Head coach Ryan Riggan and the Union Pines football program recently held a skills camp on Monday and Tuesday at the school’s practice field.
The event was a good way for youngsters to spend some invaluable time with Riggan and his players, while also serving as the first official public event for the Vikings’ recently revamped coaching staff.
“Basically this is a skills-position camp specifically focusing on passing and catching,” said Riggan. “This is the second year we’ve held this camp, and it doubled from 10 kids the first year to 20 this year. As a program we are really emphasizing making sure that kids at all of the levels of our program — from youth up — have the requisite skills to play certain positions.”
Riggan said that several of his high school players helped run the camp, which was open to all youth between the ages of 8 and 12.
“I really enjoy having camps like this,” said Riggan. “We try to get a lot of work out of the kids and also let them have a really good time. It’s important to us that the kids have fun and want to come back and continue to play football.
“It’s great to get to see the little guys having fun playing football. When you see the enjoyment they have doing drills and practice things that a lot of the older kids might find monotonous, it is really energizing to see as a coach. It is important to me because I want to coach these guys when they get older and are students at the high school. I want them to know who I am and say ‘Hi’ when they see me out in the community.”
The thing Riggan feels is most unique about the spring skills camp is that it places focus on so many skills and not just one or two positions.
“We want to give our kids a ton of specific reps at these positions and give them a chance to be very successful with what they’re doing,” he said. “This in turn can help us to identify early who might really enjoy playing the ‘QB’ position and help them to grow in our system. The growth is definitely encouraging as our camps are getting bigger and bigger each year.”
Riggan feels it is critical for his current players to take part in all of the Union Pines football program’s community camps.
“I think it’s really important when our campers get a chance to bond with some of our guys and vice-versa,” Riggan said. “Our players get a chance to mentor the young players and make them want to be part of our program in the future. I want the program to get better and grow.”
The idea of fostering through community support is a phenomenon Riggan hopes to embed in the school’s football program.
“Our community rallying behind this program is exactly what it will take to build a solid program year in and year-out here at Union Pines,” he said. “I think the stability of the coaching staff will also lead us in that direction, and I want to be the person that sees those successes come. I think that our team needs to be a reflection of our community, and we are working on making that a reality.”
Riggan said that nurturing the relationship between the Viking football team and the Union Pines community is a huge priority for him as a coach.
“This is something that I have talked about with our new coaching staff this offseason, and it is something that we will stress continually throughout the year,” Riggan said. “Our kids are working right now toward being the program our community deserves to have. That said, I would ask them to get their young men involved in our great sport of football and get them involved early.
“As the sport continues to grow here and support continues to grow, so will the Union Pines program. It’s like a house: We have to lay a solid foundation so that we can dress up the finished product. Then, as support begins to build, it will feed itself.”
Four new faces have joined the Union Pines coaching staff since the Vikings closed out the season last year with a record of 2-9 overall and 0-6 in 3-A Cape Fear Valley Conference play. The only coaches to remain from that team are Riggan, Tyler Callahan and Don Hooker.
“The new coaches are very exciting to me in terms of what they bring to the program,” said Riggan. “Our new additions are Greg Mayer, Frank Rodriguez, Mark Trueblood and Buck Fry.”
Mayer was an assistant with Riggan at Pinecrest and is coming to Union Pines after taking last season off from coaching. He played college football at Ferris State in Michigan.
Rodriguez is retiring from the Army after 24 years. Riggan said he will be working on the offensive side of the football. Trueblood coached the past two seasons at New Century Middle School and will be working on the defensive end of the ball.
Meanwhile, Fry returns to coaching after close to a 20-year break. He was an assistant once before at Union Pines for a conference championship team under John Greene and then was the head coach for another Vike league title team before spending a season as the offensive coordinator at Catawba College.
“Our staff has definitely brought a lot of new enthusiasm,” Riggan said, “and since we have started spring workouts about a month ago we have been at maximum capacity every day. With the departure of a couple of guys to Cox Mill High School in Charlotte, it gave us an opportunity to bring on some new faces and energy to the program. These guys are all excited to start working and are also people from the community that want to be part of Union Pines for a long time to come.”
Another thing that Riggan and his assistant coaches are excited about is an upcoming football camp. The summer camp will be at Union Pines from July 18 through July 20.
The cost is $65 and is open to all students from 8 years old through rising eighth graders.
“This is a full contact, fully padded camp sponsored by the Optimist Club,” Riggan said, “and I am really excited about the camp because it is a fun time for us to interact with the young players as we are getting ready for our season to start and they are getting ready for their season to start, too.”
Registration forms are available at Union Pines High School and will be up on the school’s website by April 20. The Web address for right now is www.ncmcs. org/upfootball/, according to Riggan. He also described the site as “the place where people can go to get updates on our program and anything we have coming up in the future.”
For more information on the camp or the Union Pines program, call Riggan at (910) 639-4878 or (910) 947-5511 ext 224.
Contact F. W. Manning II at email@example.com.
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