Local Sports

From the heart

— An auspicious message greeted athletes at Saturday’s Heartland Football Camp.

“Discipline, perseverance, dedication,” read a banner hanging outside the entrance to the Highlands County Sports Complex. It’s a motto LaVaar Scott lives by, and as a catalyst behind the annual football clinic, it’s one he wants to instill in his campers.

“We’ve had that message from the beginning, and we really want campers to understand its meaning,” Scott said. “There are going to be hard times. Things aren’t always going to go your way. Success won’t come easy. But when trying to overcome adversity, those are some of the best principles to stick to.”

Scott, who also serves as the head football coach at Sebring High, has helped coordinate the Heartland Football Camp for the last five years. But during camp, he abdicates coaching duties to an all-star staff of football gurus, many of whom are from Central Florida.

“We’ve got guys that played at the college level coming back to teach these kids, and their enthusiasm was great,” Scott said. “They’re good Christian coaches with great passion and knowledge for the game.”

This year’s camp brought another solid turnout of youngsters, who ranged from elementary to high school. Most came from Highlands County, but a few trickled in from DeSoto, Polk, and Palm Beach Counties.

“We were very pleased with this year’s turnout,” Scott said. “We got solid participation from all over the Heartland.”

Scott credits much of the camp’s success to the passion of the coaches, as well as its affordability.

“To get what we offer, you’d have to drive to UCF, USF, or Miami,” he said. “But we offer a quality camp for a low price. We also feed the kids and give them a shirt. We get a ton of support from the community and the camp just continues to get better — you gotta’ love it.”

About the only drawback to this year’s event was the lack of participation from the local youth football leagues.

“We understand they have their fundraisers in the summer,” Scott said. “But we want the little kids out here too, because they’re the future of football in the county.”

Scott did get a strong turnout of former Highlands County players. Sebring’s Jacquae Peart and Lake Placid’s Robert Walton were both on hand, coaching up campers as well as participating in drills.

“This is a great way for me to stay in shape and hone-up on the little things,” Peart said, who will be playing football for Dean College this fall. “And I enjoy coming out here and competing.”

Alongside the football drills, which included conditioning workouts and simulated in-game situations, campers were treated to a speech from a local prodigy.

Zephrin Augustine, a standout athlete from Lake Placid, spoke to attendees about the value of hard work. And Augustine is the living embodiment of discipline, perserverance, and dedication. A linebacker for the Green Dragons, he led the team to the playoffs during his junior and senior seasons. He also captured the Defensive Player of the Year award, was an All-Heartland First Team selection, and an All-State Honorable Mention.

“Zephrin was great. He’s a really dynamic speaker,” Scott said. “He talked to the kids about ‘tunnel vision.’ He had a dream and he stuck to it. Zephrin didn’t let anything stand in his way — not girls, not school, not the streets — of realizing his goals.”

Augustine managed to walk-on at the University of Florida in 2002, and he became an integral part of the Gators’ special teams unit. He graduated in 2004 with a degree in Exercise Sports Science.

“It’s really meaningful for a guy who met his goals to come back and speak,” Scott said. “That’s great for the kids to hear. And like the coaches and organizers who help put this camp on, he’s a testament to its success.”