The following was written by Avery Yang, special to the Outlook.
During a lull in the activities that Soul Glow’s second annual Football and Dance Camp put in place, a young camper walked up to Ramses Barden — Super Bowl champion, 2004 Flintridge Prep graduate and host of the camp — and without saying a word, crouched down, grabbed hold of his leg and would not let go.
“Get off of me!” Barden exclaimed playfully in response.
This child was one of the many participants who attended the boot camp, which provided campers, ages 6 to 19, an outlet to learn from professional athletes — some of whom include current NBA free agent Ryan Hollins and former NFL tight end Weslye Saunders — instilling attributes of “focus, awareness, balance, activation and leadership” through drills that explore the fusion of modern dance and football.
“Our focus is to build spatial awareness, expand spatial awareness and enhance our focus tool — which is our ability to focus on minute concepts among various distractions,” Barden said. “[Another focus is] establishing and sustaining balance physically, which immediately transfers to the mental and emotional.”
The event, put on in partnership with Monet Cares — a nonprofit organization that aims to provide resources, training and mentoring for children and their families — also strives to educate the youth about the importance of a balanced life.
“Our main goal is to promote healthy lifestyles, so this [event] was totally in line with that goal,” Monet Cares founder Monet Bagneris said.
The significance of having former professional players alongside Barden was evident in the nature of the exercises that were conducted. The NFL and NBA pedigrees of the former athletes in attendance supplied an archetypal perspective to the participating children and to the importance of keeping the body, mind and spirit in unison.
“I want to say that 9,200% of the NBA, outside of the physical attributes, is mental,” Hollins said. “A lot of people have the talent to be in the NBA, but there are probably three or four times as many people out of the NBA who have the talent [to be there but aren’t because] of the mental things.”
After Barden was forced to hang up his football cleats, he knew exactly what he wanted to do with his years of experience through AAU, high school, four years at Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and four years with the NFL’s New York Giants: teach the game he knows best.
Former NBA player and Pasadena native Stacey Augmon was a large influence in motivating Barden to start this camp last year. Augmon conducted a similar football camp when Barden was a child, giving him an opportunity to observe the positive effects that youth camps have on the local community and for those leading them.
Ultimately, the camp would be hard-pressed to have the success that it has enjoyed in the past two years without Barden at the helm.
“We need to get these kids over there. It’s speaker time! Yes, we have to make sure that they’re all over there,” Barden exclaimed during a transition between activities.
Throughout the day’s proceedings, Barden had very little time to focus on one activity, always conscious of the needs of every attendee. Barden was forced to periodically, for minutes at a time, interrupt his pleasantries with parents and guests in order to attend to the needs of campers, move cones and other training materials to another section of the field or unload food during lunch.
“It’s hard to stop the grind,” Barden said after he was forced to interrupt a conversation to coordinate the logistics of setting up the next activity for the campers — an obstacle course race.
Barden’s dedication to the community is something that Hollins believes is an integral part of his overall fabric.
“Both of us were born and raised in Pasadena, and I’ve always been a big fan of his on the field and seeing the things he’s done and all of his accomplishments,” Hollins said. “He really has a need to serve the community and give back.”
As morning turned into afternoon, Barden balanced his gregarious nature with the authoritativeness needed to properly administer the program’s activities.
“Ramses has one of those personalities where you’d never know what the guy has accomplished,” Hollins said. “He’s so bubbly, so energetic. The energy that he gives out is contagious so you really appreciate a guy like him in charge.”