Record numbers turn out for this year’s Castille Character Camp

This year's Castille Character Camp at Good Hope High School saw a record number of over 200 campers in attendance Saturday morning. (Martha Needham for The Cullman Tribune)

GOOD HOPE, Ala. – More than 200 athletes made their way to James W. Shabel Stadium Saturday morning for this year’s Castille Character Camp, setting an attendance record for the event.

The camp was founded by former Alabama Crimson Tide standout Jeremiah Castille in 2008, and he is assisted by former NFL and Division I athletes who teach the fundamental skills of athletics, giving participants a competitive edge in their athletic performance.

The hands-on instruction of the non-contact skills camp is designed to provide a solid foundation in football fundamentals while also building character. Participants are taught teamwork, self-discipline, consideration of others and how to attain and maximize their true potential relative to age and development on the field and in life. The camp’s goal is to train, develop and prepare players to reach their full potential athletically and personally through skill training and character building. The camp is divided into four quarters with Character Corner during halftime.

Cullman County Schools’ Special Projects Coordinator Dr. T.J. Franey was happy to report a record turnout for this year’s event and was even happier to know the event is giving valuable lessons to all of its participants.

“We’ve had a great turnout. This year we had the most pre-registered ahead of time that we’ve ever had, over 130,” Franey said. “Jeremiah’s camp just focuses so much on character and the person you are off the field. Being a great athlete is wonderful and it’s great to have that talent and gift, but he talks about how your character is what keeps you where you need to be in life.”

One of the camp’s biggest sponsors is Cullman Savings Bank. CSB’s Vice President of Marketing Clara Kent was on-hand for the camp.

“We love doing it. It seems to teach the kids so much more than football and that’s what we’re interested in,” Kent said. “We love football but the character that they bring and that they teach means so much more and for the little kids to get to learn speed and agility, there’s really nowhere else to do that and girls can come too so we like that. It’s an honor and a privilege to get to sponsor this.”

As one of the camp’s sponsors, Cullman Savings Bank helps to make sure the event is free to attend, and that’s very important to Kent.

“It makes a big difference for the kids,” Kent said. “We don’t want any child not being able to attend. If we’re offering it, we want everybody that wants to come to come.”

Good Hope High School hosted this year’s camp, and Raiders’ Strength Coach Patrick McDonald was excited to see the camp on their home field.

“This is a great camp that they put on not only to teach them skills and speed and agility for football but the best thing about it is the character development that they’re doing,” McDonald said. “They’re teaching these kids to grow up to be young men and women with character and doing things right on and off the field. We’re glad we could host it here, so far it’s going great and we’re hoping to finish this camp really well.”

The Raiders are coming off a sensational 2018 football season and McDonald has been working hard alongside his players in the offseason to meet the standard set by last year’s senior class.

“We had a great year last year. That senior class led the way with an 11-3 record, and we lost a lot of seniors so it’s up to the next man up,” McDonald said. “They’ve accepted the challenge, they’re hitting the weights hard this summer, conditioning hard, we’ve had really good attendance and we’re hoping it translates to this season.”

The camp’s head coach, Castille, likes how this camp has progressed so far and was thankful they’ve been able to find a little shade.

“It has been productive, and I just really have to give credit to our coaches. When you can have something in place and planned out, young people already have the energy naturally to do it and carry it out,” Castille said. “If you can keep it fun and exciting for them, they’ll work through and actually do more work than they realize. We’ve been blessed with some cloud coverage today too so that has kept everything running pretty smoothly.”

During the camp’s first character building session, campers learned from one of Coach Castille’s assistants about overcoming adversity and building the foundation of character. The ability to speak wisdom to young people about overcoming obstacles is what Castille loves the most about his roster of coaches.

“The first one we had was Brandon Brooks and he talked to them about biblical character, Christ-like character and your foundation. What you need as we climb what we call the success ladder, you need that character and adversity is going to come,” Castille said. “That’s when you find out what your character is, and he had adversity and talked about that. When you can personalize character-building, that’s what I love about this group of coaches that we have.”

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