Sports camps give coaches opportunity to connect with area youngsters

With temperatures already reaching the 90s that can only mean one thing in Marietta College’s Department of Athletics—summer camps.


Summer youth instructional camps in eight sports begin in June and run through early August on Marietta’s campus or sites affiliated with Pioneer athletics.


Men’s basketball coach Jon VanderWal is the first to get the camping season underway with a high school team shootout June 5 in the Dyson Baudo Recreation Center.

This is his fourth summer running the Marietta camp. He says when he arrived in late spring of 2007, getting camps organized was the first thing on his agenda.


“A positive outcome is seeing the improvement that the campers have made at a wide variety of ages. At early ages, it may be just working on their shooting form and being able to make baskets by the time they leave camp,” he says. “For our elite campers, it’s knowing that you’ve given them the tools, experience, and knowledge of what it is going to take to be a college basketball player. At the end of camp there is always a sense of accomplishment for the campers and they also have the tools to become a better player. From our coaches’ standpoint it is always great to be able to work with area youth.”


VanderWal has another team shootout on June 12 and then welcomes his first boys campers (grades 6-11) on June 13-16.


The camps may vary from a residential experience where the youngsters train during the day and then retire to a residence hall on campus for the evening, where they make friends with athletes they may never had met if not for the camp.


Marietta volleyball coach Ray Costa says this is one of his favorite side benefits from conducting camps.


“I think a great, unintended consequence of camps is that kids make great friends with players they may have never met before. It is a great opportunity for players to make friends with kids from different schools, clubs and even states,” he says. “With the way social networking is nowadays, it makes staying in touch that much easier.”


Costa is running three camps in July, starting with the Residential Senior Elite (grade 12) from July 8-11. He’ll also have a girls camp (grades 5-9) from July 12-14 and a Marietta Elite camp (grades 9-12) from July 15-18.


“I think as I’ve been around coaching more, I most enjoy working with the younger kids during camp, or older kids who have never received strong coaching before,” Costa said. “It is great to see a beginning player take great enthusiasm in learning a skill, and to see the excitement they have for the sport grow as they learn more about the sport. It is also a lot of fun to see a player who has been playing a while, but has never really been taught the game all of a sudden have something click and they can see their own improvement, and it’s like they just started playing again.”


Softball coach Jeanne Arbuckle agrees with Costa. She believes working with the younger players helps the coaches regain some of the passion they have for the game.


“It’s really a nice change of pace to work with younger players. Their enthusiasm and excitement for learning new things makes it really enjoyable,” she said. “It’s also a great opportunity to begin building relationships with potential future players.”


Arbuckle’s assistant coach Jenn Alderson is reinstating the softball camp after a lengthy absence. They are conducting youth camps on June 17 and June 24.


“We conducted our first Pioneer Fastpitch Camp back in 1998 and we ran the camp for three or four years. We stopped running the camp when the college made the decision to build a new residence hall on the site of our former field. At that point, it wasn’t practical for us to run the camp off site,” Arbuckle said. “But now with our new facilities, Jenn has decided to reinstate the camp and I’m pleased to see her do so. We always get calls asking if we’re going to offer a camp and I’m pleased that we’re able to so this summer.”


Marietta’s baseball camp has the longest history dating back nearly 20 years. Assistant coach Mike Deegan organizes the Camp of Champs. They currently run three day camps, but Deegan says in recent years they discontinued a residential camp. However, the program did add a winter “Prospects Camp” that is conducted in the Recreation Center.


Deegan said they get a number of repeat campers, and he believes that’s a good thing because there is a lot a youngster can gain at camp.


“The game of baseball is about repetition—the camp structure doesn’t change a lot, but we try to make every camp a great one,” he said. “It is always a good experience to work with young people who are excited about the game of baseball. There is a ‘pureness’ about teaching young kids the game. They are excited to be there and to learn without the pressure of being the star player. The only focus is on teaching for the coaches and learning for the campers—it makes for a great experience.”


Marietta’s baseball day camps are scheduled for June 14-16 (ages 7-11), June 21-23 (ages 12-15) and June 28-30 (ages 7-11).


“As a coach, you hope the campers pick up one thing that will help them in the future. We believe that if they learn one new thing in the game of baseball then we have done our jobs,” Deegan said. “In addition, you hope the campers enjoy their experience, and obviously, safety is a top priority.”


And for many coaches, the fun stories and situations that arise each summer make for a good laugh.


“There are a ton of stories and our staff could probably write a book about all the crazy things that have happened at camp,” VanderWal said. “Kids truly do say the darnedest things and they bring a lot of excitement to the summer for our staff.”


Other programs conducting camps this summer are women’s basketball, football, rowing and soccer.


To view a complete listing of all summer athletic camps at Marietta College click here.