PLAINVILLE - Niko Koutovides bounced around from drill to drill Saturday afternoon, beaming with excitement and offering one-on-one instruction to the kids at his annual football camp.
Giving back to the community that started him on the path to the NFL has always been important to the Plainville native.
So for two hours, the former NFL linebacker, with the help of some of the youth coaches and the Plainville High School football team, taught the fundaments of football to the Plainville Colts, each teaching a different drill.
“If some of these kids can learn something today from the game of football, especially the tackling now that concussions are such a huge priority, it makes me feel good,” Koutouvides said. “Like I always say, I think it would be selfish of me not to come and let these kids experience some of the things I did and let someone who’s played the game at the highest level teach them the fundamentals of the game of football.”
The camp, which just completed its eighth year, has a special meaning for Koutouvides. The former linebacker enjoys teaching the game to the next generation without having to burden them with the cost some other camps run by professional athletes might, something he disagrees with. He keeps it community- and town-based to offer as much personal time with each player as possible.
At Koutouvides’ camp, the instructors do more than just stand around and make sure the players are doing the drills correctly. They get involved, participating with the kids. And as most people at the clinic usually do, Koutouvides has drills that he likes the best.
“The younger kids really kind of inspire me,” he said. “I really love the running back drills, to see them with the football in their hands. Some of them have this natural ability that they have no clue that they have, but when they get older they’ll understand it and it’s great to see. They’re just out here to have a good time.
“I think for some of the younger kids, I’m just a regular guy, which is fine. I don’t want them to look at me like I’m a different person. I want them to look at me and take what I say and apply it to the game of football. If I can do that and inspire them in some way, I think I’m doing my job.”
But perhaps just as important as learning the game on the field, Koutouvides closed out his annual camp with a simple message, one that he was taught at every level of football, none more so than in the NFL: It takes more than just one player or person for a team to be successful.
“I want them to understand that, look, life isn’t fair, it’s never going to be fair, sports aren’t fair,” Koutouvides said. “You’re never always going to be on the best of teams. You’re not going to play the position you’re always going to want to play, so it’s more of a life lesson that there’s going to be ups and downs, ebbs and flows. It doesn’t matter if you’re talented or not or your team’s talented. If you play together, you can be successful.”
David Glovach can be reached at (860) 801-5085 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @DavidGlovach