Fun and life skills the goal of Youth Football Camp

OHSWEKEN – It’s hard not to notice Jim Warne and even harder not to look up to him. His physical stature is like a tree but his heart for Aboriginal Youth stands even taller.

Warne was at the Six Nations fields in Ohsweken this past weekend conducting the inaugural Six Nations Thunder Football Camp for Six Nations youth.

Cindy Martin helped organize the first ever camp in cooperation Jim Warne’s Football and Life Skills Camps for Indian Country through his Warrior Society Development, LLC Youth Division.

The former Cincinnati Bengals offensive tackle is a member of the Oglala Lakota (Sioux) Nation. His mother, Beverly, was born and raised on the Pine Ridge Reservation in Kyle, South Dakota. Like his father Jim Sr., he grew up in Tempe, Arizona. Jim earned a B.S. from Arizona State University and a M.S. from San Diego State University. He has also earned a post-graduate certificate in Rehabilitation Administration with 21 Ph.D. level units. He is currently a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Northern Colorado. He is also a member of the Screen Actors Guild and has appeared in several feature length movies and TV shows.

Warne played his college ball at Arizona State and played in the 1987 Rose Bowl against Michigan. He also appeared in the Hula Bowl All-star Game and was drafted by the Cincinnati Bengals as an offensive tackle.

“I’ve been called a professional journeyman because I bounced around several teams but I refer to myself as a professional refugee, playing in three different pro leagues,” he laughs.

But his ambition in life is to help young Native athletes overcome their shyness, develop physically and learn good nutritional habits to prepare them for high school and college as well as life in general using football as his tool of choice.

“I started out doing a thing called Native Vision with the NFL Players Association,” says Warne during a break at Sunday’s camp. “They do a great camp every year, about 500-700 kids come, but what I wanted to do was to get to the communities where kids can’t travel or raise the funds to get there. That’s why I do a lot of rez-hoping these days. Last week I was at Seneca for the 8th annual camp.”

It was there that Cindy Martin met and worked with Warne at his camp and asked him to bring his camp to Six Nations.

“It’s my third year working with Jim at Cattaraugus,” says Martin. “I usually provide the nutrition component and physical activity.”

She has witnessed the positive impact Warne’s camps provide to Aboriginal Youth and was pleased with the turnout and the attentiveness of the campers.

“It’s not every day you get to meet and hang out with an ex-NFL player,” she says. “Now that we’ve had a trial run, with more fundraising and support, the bigger and better it’s going to be.”

Like Warne, Martin believes sports can be a great teachers of life skills that will prepare them for high school by helping them get over their shyness and learn how to work together.

This being the first trial camp at Six Nations, it was small by comparison to his more established camps, but Warne see’s great potential, especially in a community so steeped in lacrosse.

The Six Nations Thunder Football Camp attracted about 20 kids between 5-18 years in its first attempt.

Warne asks the older campers to be inclusive with the little ones and act as coaches on the field during light scrimmages where it is not about winning and losing, but inclusion and encouragement.

“By keeping the drills fun, the kids don’t realize how hard they are working,” he says. “Especially the obstacle course they are really challenging themselves to get a better time each run and get it right. They are having a blast, but they really are working hard.”

The Jimmy Warne Football, Athletic and Life Skills Camps reflects a holistic approach with education on nutrition, culture, knowing your language, respecting elders, anti-bullying and the need to stay in school and apply oneself.

Warne conducts Football and Life Skills Camps for Indian Country through his Warrior Society Development, LLC Youth Division. For more information go to

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