“Slow for pedestrians,” say the signs leading to the athletic fields and gym this summer. Summer athletics camps are in full swing, with boys and girls elementary age through high-school age on campus Monday through Friday. Most are dropped off at a central spot near the Baseball Stadium, and camp counselors every few minutes escort a group to their camp. On one late June morning, whistles blew right at 9 for three camps in session that week: men’s basketball, baseball and women’s soccer.
In the central court in Fleming Gym, Kevin Oleksiak, director of basketball operations, greets all the campers who’ve sat themselves along a baseline. “How does everyone feel this morning?” They’d run a good bit the day before, in games, drills and competitions. With a large cage of Spartan basketballs ready for use, Oleksiak talks a little about the day – which will include swimming in Rosenthal Pool later, for those who’d like. And then it’s time for stretching, the boys forming four lines as Assistant Coach Brian Judski leads. Next, the boys break into six groups by age, most led by a current Spartan player or coach. For example, sophomore Kyle Randall, a point guard who was the team’s second leading scorer as a freshman, leads his “team” in layups, then gathers them to give some pointers.
Coach Mike Dement talks with some of the boys, on one court. Thoughout the week, they’ll work on rebounding, defense, shooting, ball handling, moves on offense and the transition game (quickly moving the ball upcourt after a rebound). They’ll learn new fundamentals and tips each day, for each of these.
Kyle Randall gives each of his group a big high five.
“Good fun” is how Dement refers to the day. “Go to the pool, go to the cafeteria, learn some basketball…” Plus he says it provides an excellent activity for parents and kids looking for a great summer resource. And it builds fan support, a bond between the program’s players and the boys and by extension, the greater community.
And “it’s great for our players,” Dement adds. They’re learning by coaching.
In addition to the basketball, the boys will swim, have a big lunch in the campus dining hall – the lowfat cotton-candy flavored ice cream is a big hit – and new assistant coach Wes Miller, who played a few years ago at UNC Chapel Hill, will give a talk to all the boys in the afternoon about some of his experiences. The day before, Associate Head Coach Corey Gipson spoke on the topic of “potential.”
Meanwhile, on a patch of outfield turf, the baseball boys are finishing up some running exercises. They’ve moved from “high-knees” to a sideways style of running that the student coaches call “Karaoke.” Trevor Edwards, the gregarious Spartan catcher that Assistant Coach Dustin Ijames says has emerged as the campers’ “crowd favorite,” likens it to surfing. He illustrates for them, twisting his body to and fro. “Surf it!” he says. “Where are my surfer dudes?” One boy shows off for him, running toward pitcher Greg Smith. “There’s our surfer!”
Coach Mike Gaski says the baseball camp is about instruction in fundamentals and creating a fun atmosphere. There are learning stations for defensive and offensive skills, and in the afternoons they play games. The day before, in teaching fielding fundamentals, Ijames notes, they concentrated on a wide base, “pocket to pocket” use of both hands when fielding a grounder, and bringing the ball to the chest as you secure the grounder.
Christy Avent, associate athletic director / senior woman administrator, oversees the athletics camps program, which averages about 3,000 kids each summer. The campus’ girls’ and boys’ soccer camps and the boys’ lacrosse camp typically have the most demand, she says. The biggest growth in recent years has been for those two sports and also in the wrestling “Takedown” camp.
“The economy is really affecting the camps,” Avent says, adding that “parents have told me that they have had to choose between camps this summer rather than have their child attend several due to some families are now down to one-salary households.” In addition, there’s competition from lots of other camps throughout the area.
On the soccer field, Coach Eddie Radwanski [seen in visual] had started the day with all the girls gathered in a loose semicircle, talking about some key World Cup shots they’d all seen on TV and relating it to fundamentals. “OK, enough of Eddie talking,” he tells them. They break up into lines, as he demonstrated a drill to fake out your opponent. “Pivot! Good!…All right!”
He uses lots of praise and encouragement, as do the women’s team players who act as coaches. Some girls he’ll call by name. “Good job! Give her a hand!”
A while later, when asked about his philosophy toward the camps, he notes that the style of Vince Lombardi has gone the way of the dinosaurs. “If it’s not fun, they won’t come back,” he says. There are other camps and summer options the kids’ families could choose.
He grew up in a relatively poor, blue-collar family where getting to go to a camp was rare. At the same time, he had a lot of “very positive” teachers and mentors. He wants the girls to have fun and become better players. “I want them to say ‘ I had a blast – and I learned something.'”
Girls’ basketball and boys’ soccer are in session this week. Some more athletic camps will be offered in coming weeks. There is a 10 percent discount for faculty and staff. That discount can’t be taken when using online registration. For the discount, use a printed copy of the brochure that is located on the main camp web page, where you can find details about each of the camps. Those with questions may email Christy Avent.