Professional football players visit Spokane Reservation

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WELLPINIT, Wash. - The Spokane Shock is a professional indoor football team made up mostly of players who have had tryouts at NFL camps and hold aspirations of playing in the NFL. Head coach Adam Shackleford and eight of his players recently spent three days on the Spokane Indian Reservation working with students and athletes from Wellpinit schools.

The visit was a welcome surprise to Wellpinit head football coach Mark Patterson, who had been vacationing when the visit was arranged by Jamie Sijohn, public relations, and Rodney McCoy, youth coordinator, both with the tribe, and Robin Kieffer with Two Rivers Casino. As Patterson explained, ''The Shock are real popular out here in Wellpinit. I've had season tickets and I took the whole high school team in to see a game last year and they really enjoyed it. It was kind of fun to go watch professional eight-man football, since we play eight-man football.''

Regular practice times were rescheduled to fit with the Shock schedule. Shock players spent three hours each day working with younger kids first, and later with the high school team. A couple of the Shock dance team members also came to teach the girls to dance and to talk with them about college and grades.

Sijohn explained the daily routine.

''They started with motivational speaking before they did their drills. They hit home with a lot of the boys talking about self-esteem, staying in college, and how important grades are. They also touched on a couple of specific things like no bullying in school and if you see a younger person that's in trouble to help them out, plus a lot of things about good citizenship.''

Patterson said, ''They were very, very helpful. They'd break our guys up into small groups. The first day they worked with the offensive line and we broke into quarterbacks and receivers. The next day we worked with the defensive line, linebackers and secondary. It was great to watch. The team absolutely loved it! It was kind of an eye-opener for them to be standing on the field being coached by someone who had actually been in an NFL camp. They might not be playing NFL, but they were playing pro football and getting paid to play football. It was a real good experience.

''It also made me more knowledgeable in their eyes because the Shock were teaching them some of the same things that we've been working on, some of the same drills. They were like, 'Oh wow, our coaches do know what they're doing!'''

Shackleford explained some of the ideas behind the visits.

''We're trying to build a partnership between the tribe and the Spokane Shock. We realize they have a need to help their youth and with our influence as professional athletes and professional coaches, we feel like we can use football as our tool to teach them more than football. There are things they need outside of football; things in life. We brought some guys out here this past week that I think have dealt with some of the same things these kids do. To see them, where they are now, hopefully will inspire these kids a little bit to keep on track and pushing towards their goals.''

The team agreed. T.J. Flett, senior running back, said, ''It was great, man; it was a good experience. They taught me a lot just the week they were here. They taught me good technique.'' Cheyenne Swift, senior center and team captain, concurred. ''It meant a lot for them to come here because the coach, he really cares a lot about the youth. When he comes out here, it's real important to us and I know it's important to him.''

Shackleford went on to say that some of his players got as much out of it as the high school kids.

''They really had a good time last week. As long as we're here and the Spokane Shock is in existence, we can build on this partnership. I know we've gotten a lot out of it and we hope the tribe has as well.''

Shackleford returned to Wellpinit a few days later to watch the first game of the season as the Wellpinit Redskins took on Highland Christian Prep from Marysville. Watching from the stands, he said, ''I've got to know a few of the kids. They're playing real well today. The coaching staff here has done a great job keeping these kids focused. It says a lot about the coaching staff.''

The impact seems to have already had an effect. Trailing by 10 in the fourth quarter, Wellpinit came back to win, 40 - 32.