For the love of the game
Summer camps now routine part of high school sports scene
Not too long ago, high school students looked forward to summer so they could get away from school for a few months and enjoy a relaxing break.
Trips to the local swimming pool became part of a daily routine, as did sleeping in until noon and hanging out with friends whenever they wanted to.
Somewhere along the line, things changed, and with that change came a whole new meaning of summertime.
Today, several high school athletes spend as much time if not more at school during the summer than during the school year. The only difference is they're not there learn in the summer: They're there to get bigger, stronger and faster.
Although most of the increase in the athletes' desire to work out comes from within, one big factor that has them hanging around school more often in the summer are the summer camps that the coaches of various sports conduct.
At Mill Valley High School, nearly every sport has a summer camp. The intensity and focus of these camps vary, but for Mill Valley, football coach George Radell, summer camp is a way to get the athletes thinking about football before practices begin in August.
Most high schools in the area have their football camp at the end of the season, but Radell did his the first week in June for a couple of reasons.
"First of all, we want to do it early because we want to get our kids in the mindset of thinking about football at the beginning of the summer," Radell said. "Secondly, whether you do it this week or that week, you're always going to have some conflict. But it seems to us that the earlier we do it the best chance we have for most of the kids to show up."
Last season Radell said the Jaguars had just two players on the entire roster who didn't show up for camp. This season, Radell expects that number to be about 90 percent of the roster, and he couldn't be more excited, considering participation is voluntary.
"I ask that they be there, but I can't make them be there," Radell said. "But for a lineman or something to not come to camp, really puts him behind. If we have 25 linemen that do come to camp, that means that guy who didn't make it might be our 26th lineman. I certainly don't hold it against the kids if they can't make it, but it's certainly to their advantage to be at camp."
Mill Valley volleyball coach David Beach has a similar stance in asking his girls to show up to the Jaguars' summer volleyball camp.
"I certainly stress to them that it is optional," Beach said. "But I'd love to have as many of them there as I can. It just gives them such an advantage, because the girls who come to camp are more familiar with the coaches and the drills and what's expected out of them. That really helps our team when the season gets here."
Radell and Beach, as well as the rest of the coaches at Mill Valley, run things differently at their summer camps. For Beach, camp is a way to show the girls what a day of practice at Mill Valley will be like. That way they know if they can take it, and they see what they need to work on. Radell, on the other hand, treats camp as a way for his players to improve their individual skills. In fact, the first two nights of his camp are for linemen only, and the final three nights include the rest of the positions.
Because it is the summertime, both coaches stress having fun at their camps as well. After all, because the camps are optional there's no sense in making them a drag. And both Radell and Beach said that if the camps weren't at least a little fun, they wouldn't expect very many athletes to show up.
"Fun is pretty high up there for me," Radell said. "Simply because I'm not thinking about who we open the season with in the first week of June. I'm just thinking about Mill Valley stuff and teaching the game while having fun doing it."
With sports at the high school level becoming increasingly competitive every year, these camps and getting production from them have become a staple of several successful high school programs around the state. Although Mill Valley is just entering its third season of existence, that attitude is one thing they share with just about every high school in the state.