Arizona basketball and softball summer camps offer more than just a game

By Monty Phan

Arizona Daily Wildcat

Ahh, summer camp ... wholesome images are immediately evoked: overnight sessions with friends P away from Mom and Dad, cool mountain air, and of course, hundreds of screaming kids chanting, RLuuuuuute!S

Well, OK, maybe the proper enunciation of the Arizona menUs basketball coachUs first name was not a skill stressed at the 1994 Wildcat Basketball Camp, or even at Mike CandreaUs Girls Softball Camp or Joan BonviciniUs Hoop Camp, for that matter. But when it came to athletic skills, very few were left out.

OlsonUs camp featured three weeks of individual instruction for students entering grades 3 through 12, as well as an advanced and team camp for high school students, featuring top level varsity competition. The main focus for the individual camp is fundamentals, while the advanced and team camp stresses the finer points of the game, such as potential game situations. Participants visited with Olson and a host of former players including Sean Elliott, Steve Kerr, Anthony Cook, Sean Rooks, Jud Buechler and Matt Muehlebach who each appeared.

Not to be outdone, BonviciniUs camp is very similar and equally educational.

Bonvicini explains: RThis year we had three weeks of different camps: one was an individual camp, where we work on individual skills, and we had about 270 kids. Then we had just a day camp, (it) ran from about 9 to 4:30, really more younger kids P 8-years-old to about 16 P but (most of them were between) 8 to 12.

RIt was close to about 70 or 80 (girls). And then in the end of July we had a team camp where we had different high school teams Q varsity and junior varsity Q come in, so they played and practiced together as a team.S

The camp helps not only the kids, but the instructors too.

RThe youngest player I recruited was nine that ended up playing for me,S Bonvicini said. RYou can tell when theyUre young if theyUre good. Actually, in our day camp there was a young kid that was one of our ball girls that was very good.S

But the camp is not all basketball, and the staff does its best to see that the girls know there is more to life than just a leather ball and a hoop.

RWe also try to do some motivational things,S Bonvicini explains. “We talk about sports pyschology, we talk about grades. We have them watch films on All-Americans. And occasionally I’ll speak, about all kinds of different issues. A lot (of it is) about being well-rounded. Obviously not just basketball, but about utilizing your education as a means to an end. We use people as role models, and talk about their experiences.”

Softball coach Mike Candrea’s camp takes girls north to the campus of Embry-Riddle University in Prescott. Assistant softball coach Larry Ray has been involved with the program for the last nine years, and, as he explains, the camp touches on “all phases of fast-pitch softball ... pitching, catching, hitting, throwing, sliding, infield, outfield, team defense, that sort of thing.”

As with basketball, “young” doesn’t always denote “unskilled.”

“The kids are grouped according to, number one, their age group, but also according to their skill,” explains Ray. “So you might have a younger kid who’s very highly skilled be up with some of the older kids.”

Both girls’ camps have had a steady rate of growth. Since Bonvicini started her camp, she has extended it from one camp to three, and from 60 girls to 270. Candrea is also looking to form another camp, as they have had to turn girls away.

But Bonvicini, stating the sentiments of her involvement in the camp, may have echoed the experiences of all the camp staffs: “For me, I really enjoy doing camps because it gives me the opportunity to work with younger people. You realize then what kind of impact you have as a role model, and how kids emulate whatever we do here at the U of A.”

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