Dave Christensen seemed a little surprised at the discrepancy of hands in the air in response to a simple question he posed to a group of elementary-age kids Tuesday afternoon in Gillette.
How many of them were Cowboys’ fans, he first asked. Then he asked how many were not.
As more and more hands rose after his second question, the fifth-year coach of the University of Wyoming football team had his answer. And it was not the one he wanted.
But he is fine with that, for now.
“That’s OK. Sometimes they don’t know the difference between the Wyoming Cowboys or the Denver Broncos,” Christensen said. “But then, that’s why we are out here.”
Christensen and his entire coaching staff made a stop at Campbell County High School on Tuesday to conduct a football camp focused on teaching prospective players the fundamentals, technique and mental aspects of football. It’s also to ensure the Cowboy brand is fresh on the minds of all fans across Wyoming and the region.
The Cowboys coaching staff will hit the state hard early in June, also making stops in Sheridan, Casper, Laramie, Cheyenne, Rock Springs and Jackson in a nine-day blitz.
“We’re just trying to get them some exposure to the University of Wyoming football program and hopefully teach them some things that they might be able to take with them and develop as football players,” Christensen said.
“Hopefully, they’ll have a chance to play in the junior highs and the high schools in this area. Really, it’s more of an outreach for us to be able to get into the communities and show the appreciation that we get from our great fan base.”
Tuesday’s camp at the North Campus football practice fields drew about 150 participants, Camels football coach Vic Wilkerson said. About 125 kids ages 6-18 preregistered for the day-long event, while there were others that showed up Tuesday morning to take part.
This is just the second year UW has brought its camp to Gillette, so numbers were significantly up, Wilkerson said.
“I think it’s great,” Wilkerson said. “It’s great for their coaches to get a little exposure and work with some kids they might not normally get a chance to work with. And it’s good for our kids here, too.”
While the camp didn’t attract many high school players — most of those went to Sheridan Tuesday afternoon to play in a scrimmage — there were plenty of eager faces running from drill to drill throughout the day.
Austin Clemeson, a 13-year-old running back at Sage Valley Junior High, wanted to learn some technique and improve as a player. Oh, and have a little fun.
He did just that.
“I learned about keeping the ball safe while you are running,” Clemeson said. “We learned a lot of basic stuff. And it was fun.”
Working through drills that ranged from footwork, agility, handling the football and an impromptu-style game of almost touch football, Clemeson and his fellow campers stayed busy.
Mason Hamilton, an 11-year-old sixth-grader at Conestoga Elementary School, wanted to get some tips on being a better quarterback. He go just that, he said.
“I wanted to learn stuff that I can put to use in real football games,” Hamilton said. “I had fun. I had a lot of fun hanging out with my friends.”
Hamilton said the things he learned will benefit him as he works his way toward playing quarterback for Sage Valley someday.
Christensen said he makes it out to three or four of the many camps the university puts on each year, either on the road or in Laramie. Between the camps, golf outings and speaking engagements, the coach is constantly on the move.
And for good reason.
“I try to switch it up and get to different places,” Christensen said. “Different things bring me to different regions of the state as we try to get to as many different places as possible, and still try to take care of things back at the university.”
On this particular trip, Christensen’s entire coaching staff made the trip to work with the kids. Some camps have a mixture of coaches and players. But since his Wyoming squad just reported back to Laramie on Monday after a three-week break, the coaches were out in force at this camp.
Christensen is looking to rebound from a subpar 2012 season that saw the Cowboys go 4-8. Wyoming opens the 2013 campaign at Nebraska on Aug. 31.
And the coach is hoping all this camping will pay off. Someday.
“If they have a great experience with our coaches, that might be the main difference in a young man wanting to go to school at Wyoming some day,” Christensen said. “That’s what we are out here for.”