FRANKLIN LAKES, N.J.- Add another title to two-time Super Bowl Champion, Super Bowl MVP, national NFL analyst, and former New York Giants quarterback Phil Simms‘ resume: Coach.
Approximately thirty local football quarterbacks and wide receivers descended upon Pulis Field in Franklin Lakes to attend Coach Simms’ inaugural Quarterback and Wide Receiver Academy. That’s right: Academy. The curriculum of the academy is extensive: “We’re doing everything here!” Coach Simms exclaimed to the group of players and coaches assembled in front of him on day one.
Looking forward to the Phil Simms 2017 QB & WR Camp in North Jersey! Follow the link below for sign ups! C U there! https://t.co/RG0zLhkIXS
— Phil Simms (@PhilSimmsQB) May 17, 2017
The players, ranging from grades 6-12, listened intently to the advice Pro Football Hall-of-Fame worthy Coach Simms told them. They focused closely on the demonstrations his assistant coaches (Alex Thompson, QB at Wagner College and Ryan Adzima, QB at Montclair State University) performed. Then, Simms’ students broke into groups to perfect the skill under the watchful eyes of highly experienced coaches from the top football programs in the state of New Jersey: Ramapo High School, Bergen Catholic High School, and Wayne Hills High School. Throughout the drills, Coach Simms excitedly scurried from group to group, offering praise and tweaking mechanics.
His academy is “hands-on [because] that’s what [he] believe[s] in.” That’s right: one of the best quarterbacks to ever don New York Giants’ blue works directly with each and every player that attends his camp. The most important takeaway from these eight sessions is for the players to trust the process. Simms explained that his message to the kids is simple: “You’re here to learn, so what I’m going to teach you is probably different from what they’ve done previously. …Don’t worry about performance here, worry about learning.” From my vantage point, Simms is a natural coach that understands the habits of youth football players. “It’s really a tough thing for kids because if they don’t throw the football well, it gets them all nervous. They [revert back to] the way they know they can do it. But that way is not good for the long haul.”
Familiar with Coach Simms for all their lives are his sons: Chris and Matt. Chris (selected by the Buccaneers in the 2003 NFL Draft enjoyed a 7 year NFL career cut short by a severe on-field injury) and Matt (a current quarterback on the Atlanta Falcons).
Coaches typically do not welcome parents that coach their kids (and other kids) from the sidelines. I wondered what the dynamic was like between Simms, having such a successful NFL career, and his sons’ teams. It turns out, Simms was a coach’s ideal parent. “I never yelled from the sideline…. I never got involved with the coaching of the team…. I did not instruct them during the games. We talked afterwards. Really, most of the time, I let [my kids] do the talking, [and] I was the listener…. I coached [Chris and Matt] when they were at my house, or when they were in the car on the drive home…” Since the NFL’s travel schedule didn’t allow for Simms to attend his sons games, he told me: “[their] coaches were tremendous with [the situation]: very open and welcomed me to go…to one practice a week…and coach my sons just a little bit.”
Simms opened up about the family dynamic surrounding his professional career and his sons’ youth careers. “My youngest son Matt, I probably coached him much, much more than my older son Christopher. I was still playing when [my oldest son] was going into high school….If I could do it all over again, I’d be much more involved with [Chris]… But, they understand. They never complained….” Instead of dwelling on it, the Simms family adapted to the routine. “It brought a different dynamic to our relationship….I would work on Sundays. Of course I would call on Friday or Saturday…to see how [their games] went. On Mondays, I got to sit on the couch and I got to watch the game with [them]. And we would talk: why’d you do this? or: this was great. [They were] truly great times, [they] really [were] to be able to watch film with my sons.”
I enjoyed watching Simms meeting with parents as they dropped their sons off. I noted that he knew every one of the parents’ names and asked about their families. That’s special. He explained to me that: “I’m in New Jersey 39 years… so I know everybody in town and to do something like this or [other] endeavors, whether is for charity, or whatever, it’s just being part of the community. I love that…. For me, the most fun is doing like something like this: having the kids come out and teach them a little bit.” Players at the Simms Academy are getting intellectual, situational, and mechanical football advice. “There’s reasons why quarterbacks and receivers catch it [and] run well, and why quarterbacks throw well: because they use the proper techniques…. We’re seeing it here today. I’m amazed at how [the players] learn and pick it up so quick. It’s always fun to watch a kid smile when they do something well”.
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