Coaches, kids benefit from summer camps

Thousands of young athletes — or sometimes just youngsters looking to run around — will take to the
Summer sports camps, such as Skidmore College's soccer camp, provide income for coaches, training and activities for kids and a chance for athletes and coaches to get to know each other better.
Summer sports camps, such as Skidmore College's soccer camp, provide income for coaches, training and activities for kids and a chance for athletes and coaches to get to know each other better.

Thousands of young athletes — or sometimes just youngsters looking to run around — will take to the dozens of sports camps in the area this summer.

They represent thousands of opportunities for area coaches, both at the high school and college level, to raise a little more money for themselves, their assistant coaches or their programs, and as many opportunities to introduce kids to a college program or just to help shape young players, which can be its own reward.

Scotia’s Doug O’Brey is an assistant coach with the Amsterdam Mohawks of the Perfect Game Collegiate Baseball League, a physical education teacher with the Albany City School District and head of the Doug O’Brey Baseball School. The clinic enters its 22nd summer and runs for two weeks in Scotia.

“It’s my summer employment,” O’Brey said. “I do it in Scotia because I want to bring it back to the community where I grew up. It’s not a huge money-maker for me, but if I wanted to do it all summer long, it probably would be beneficial to me.”

Union College’s men’s and women’s soccer coaches, Jeff Guinn and Brian Speck, run a co-ed soccer camp at Union for one week at the end of July, but Guinn also runs more than a month of Pro Kick soccer camps in Bethlehem.

Even when Guinn is doing his own thing at the complex in Bethlehem, he makes sure he is noticeably a representative of Union College. Visibility, he said, is the biggest benefit for college coaches running summer camps.

“I’ve now had five or six players come through Union who I coached at camp when they were 6 or 7,” Guinn said. “That’s not why I started doing the camps, but it’s been a result of them, and it’s pretty awesome to see a kid grow up.”

Some college players help out at their coach’s summer camp, but not many. Especially with camps that run just one or two weeks, they just aren’t as good an employment opportunity as the kids can find elsewhere. When they do spend a few weeks with their coach — and the other coaches who assist at the camps — there are other benefits for both the players and coaches.

“When you’re around them in the summer and there’s not the pressure of schoolwork, practice and games, I think you learn more about people; they let their guard down a little bit,” said Brian Beaury, head basketball coach at The College of Saint Rose. “And they get to see me in a different light. I don’t always like being their coach and their boss, so I try to find the middle ground.”

“They can demonstrate skills, and things like that,” Speck said. “The more contact we can have with them, just knowing how they’re doing, just having that daily contact is great. We see how their daily training is going. If they’re here, maybe they can get into the weight room and work out some, whereas if they’re home, maybe it’s more difficult for them to get to a training facility. So in that respect, having the contact with them is great.”

The contact the coaches can have with the players, though, is limited by NCAA regulations. For instance, the coach cannot organize an after-hours pickup game.

The number of players serving as camp counselors is so low, though, that those opportunities aren’t even a temptation at local camps. Beaury has a handful of players at his camp, Speck might bring in two each summer, Guinn three or four.

Guinn said the benefit to a coach, insomuch as his capacity as a coach of these players, is negligible, and that’s what the NCAA wants.

“It’s not a large group of players,” Guinn said. “Kids who stay, you can help point them toward age-group teams they can play for in the area, but you can’t be involved as a coach. The rules are made to prevent you from having any advantage from doing that, and it’s really impossible to circumvent the rules.”

The other area coaches who work as counselors at the camp also benefit. O’Brey learned how to run his baseball school by working under Siena coach Tony Rossi at his clinics.

“I learned an awful lot from him and from some of the other camps I worked,” O’Brey said. “I put all that together, along with some of my own twists.”

To get the word out and attract young athletes, O’Brey visits local Little Leagues and Babe Ruth leagues. Beaury has adapted to use social media and the web to advertise. While Speck and Guinn use the Internet some, they also pound the pavement.

“We’ll get 5,000 pamphlets,” Speck said, “and between Jeff and I, we’ll go to . . . all these weekend tournaments. Him and myself, or we’ll have our boys do it, we’ll have them go and put flyers on the cars. It’s a lot of work. There’s different places you can advertise, like on the CDYSL website. But for the most part, it’s legwork.”

The payoff is a supplemental income for coaches and all the camp’s employees. These are not used, usually, to raise money for the program, though coaches can use the money for that.

Beaury has run the Saint Rose boys’ and girls’ camps — which also are Albany County-certified children’s camps with use of the school’s pool, staff lifeguards and first aid workers — since 1985. He said some years, he has used part of the camp’s profits to buy practice gear, travel gear, gym bags and sneakers for the program. The resulting staff size, and Beaury’s insistence on paying his counselors well and keeping the cost to campers consistent, has limited the profits a bit.

The reason he still loves running the camps after 30 years, though, is the chance it gives him to shape the way kids play the game.

“Of my friends that have been doing them a long time, I’m one of the few that still loves it,” Beaury said. “I absolutely love basketball camp, for a lot of different reasons. I like blank slates; I like young kids who don’t have a lot of bad habits.”

Categories: Sports

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