Day 7 of training camp at Renton’s Virginia Mason Athletic Center carried a little bit different feel than the other six workouts open to fans so far this summer, as 12s were treated to a scrimmage between Seattle’s offense and defense.
Thirty minutes into practice, DJ Supa Sam queued up The Verve’s Bitter Sweet Symphony — the same track that plays during Seahawks introductions on gamedays at CenturyLink Field — to welcome a group of kids from Seattle’s Central Area Youth Association (CAYA) to the middle of the field for a ceremonial coin toss with head coach Pete Carroll.
Courtesy of Safeway, the Seahawks’ title partner of training camp and the 12 Tour, CAYA was hosted on site to enjoy a unique VIP experience that included a gift bag for each child, a Seahawks jersey of their favorite player, and a post-practice meet-and-greet with Seahawks defensive ends Cliff Avril and Michael Bennett, as well as tight end Jimmy Graham.
“It just kind of helps them feel good about themselves, coming out here,” said CAYA executive director Joe Staton, a CAYA alumnus and former professional baseball player for the Detroit Tigers. “They’re getting a chance to meet some of their idols, they’ve got the names of their idols on the backs of their shirts — they’ll have these forever — and they got a chance to go out on the field.
“This was a real big deal for these kids. Not very many kids in the whole state get a chance like this, get to go out on the field and talk to the players, so they’ll remember this forever.”
CAYA’s mission is to help facilitate the positive development of youth, and that’s one of the primary reasons why Safeway found it appropriate to bring an aspiring group of young football players from Seattle’s central district out to meet those who play the sport professionally.
“CAYA really tries to teach them that they need to consistently be dedicated to hard work, keep up their grades, and that this is a rare profession and it takes a lot of dedication,” said Sara Osborne, Safeway’s director of public affairs and philanthropy. “So I think them seeing this, most of them have never been to a game, have never been to a practice, so the idea of a player is very elusive and not reality. I think Joe is really trying to use this to say if you follow these same steps you could potentially get there one day.”
On top of Staton, one individual with CAYA ties to make it pro is Jason Terry, the Franklin High School standout who has enjoyed a lengthy career in the NBA. Terry, whose nephew was part of the youth group in attendance Monday, took note of CAYA’s visit to team headquarters on Twitter, replying “C.a.y.a. Where it all started #206” to a Seahawks tweet.
Yet the reality is not all kids will be able to achieve at the highest levels of sport, so Staton hopes visits like Monday’s will help instill the type of values youth can also apply in the classroom, in the community, and in the home.
“You know what’s exciting about this is they get a chance to see that they’re a person just like them. They have to grow up to get to this point,” Staton said. “We have kids that are eight, nine years old who are playing football. They don’t know what it takes to get to this level and talking to some of these guys this afternoon, they’ll be able to explain how difficult this is and how much it takes, and how much you have to think and have good grades in school and all that just to get to this point. It’s not just being a big kid and coming out here and playing football. There’s a lot more to it than that and I’m sure that they’ll say some things to the kids this afternoon that’ll be inspiring and will help them move forward.”