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Sports and service team up T'breds help lead sports camps
Sports and service team up
Just as the thoroughbreds arrive for the Saratoga racing season, Skidmore’s Thoroughbreds prepare for a season of sports camps. For more than fifteen years, these day camps have provided intensive, usually weeklong workshops for children in their sport of choice.
Nine programs were offered this past summer, including an elite guard camp in girls’ basketball,
a new camp in boys’ lacrosse, and programs in field hockey, rowing, volleyball, basketball, and soccer (many of them for both genders). Megan Buchanan, associate athletics director, says registrations were up in all the camps this summer, probably because “the reputations of the Skidmore coaches who lead the camps have been growing; they’ve developed relationships in the community.” Skidmore varsity athletes serve as camp counselors alongside the coaches.
“Try new things, get new experiences—it’s what Skidmore promotes for its students,” says Nick Coppola ’09, a T’bred lacrosse player and instructor for the boys’ camp, which included boys from eight to thirteen. “I haven’t worked with kids this age before. They worked so hard,” says Coppola, who seemed surprised by both the diligence of the kids and his own enjoyment of each day.
“The best part of the camp was the coaches—they made it fun,” says Griffin Taylor, who attended with six of the nine players on his undefeated third- and fourth-grade travel team. “We learned a lot of new things too.” And that’s the key for head coach and camp leader Jack Sandler. “We want to make lacrosse more accessible to kids in the community, and we can offer a different level of coaching,” he says. “Sometimes when we are recruiting for college players we see teenagers who are missing the fundamentals.” His camp seeks to fill the skills gap for young players.
Another strong advocate for fundamentals is Darren Bennett, head coach for Skidmore women’s basketball. This year’s hoops camp breaks down the game into little morsels that can be digested by the young players—and they gobble them up. His lesson plans run like clockwork. With Bennett on a microphone like Dick Vitale during March Madness, each group moves from skill to skill with their varsity instructors, practicing passing, shooting, and dribbling drills. In these exercises sometimes “the light goes on without them even knowing,” says Tom Coons, Bennett’s assistant coach. The camp takes breaks for swimming, lunch, and discussion sessions on such topics as balancing school and sports. While high school and college athletes discuss time-management and priority-setting issues out on the gymnasium floor, Bennett and Coons chat in the stands. Then it’s down to business again, this time with shooting competitions and scrimmages.
Other summer camps look very different. For the athletic department’s only adult camp, crew coach Jim Tucci holds a masters’ rowing program that calls on T’bred coxswains to steer the rowers’ long shells in the morning fog on Saratoga Lake. Varsity crew members Ron Sanchez ’09 and Kacey Light ’09 answered the call—and the alarm clock—to show up at the Fish Creek boathouse at 5:45 a.m. to help the seasoned adult rowers in the workshop. Since coxswains are traditionally boss of the boat, the upside-down generational dynamic makes for an unusual educational experience.
“The summer programs are an extension of what our teams do during the academic year,” says organizer Megan Buchanan. As just a few examples, she cites Kids Night Out (run by the Skidmore baseball team), spring-break clinics at a community center, and partnerships in which city programs are hosted at Skidmore. “It’s neat to see the process as athletes and coaches immerse themselves in community service or mentoring.”