Friday, June 10, 2005

It's camping season at Chadron State College.

Chadron State defensive coordinator Todd Auer applauds a good play during a tackling drill. Bottom - Brad Smith, Chadron State athletic director, gives directions to the campers.
The first of the 14 athletic camps scheduled during June at CSC got under way last weekend, bringing lots of excitement to the otherwise rather docile campus this time of year.

A boys’ basketball team camp that attracted about 30 teams from 15 schools opened the schedule last weekend. It was followed by an individual camp that drew 100 boys in grades four through 10 and the first of four football team camps.

A girls’ basketball team camp that will involve 35 teams begins Friday afternoon while a variety of volleyball, wrestling and track and field camps will follow.

The first of the football camps was the largest ever at Chadron State. It drew 540 players from 15 schools. They were accompanied by about 65 coaches while another 40 coaches and players from CSC helped with the instruction.

That first football camp ended Wednesday noon, but about 375 gridders from 13 different schools arrived as the first group was leaving. The second camp will run through Saturday noon.

“The camps keep us busy, but they’re good for both the college and the athletes,” said CSC Athletic Director Brad Smith. “The camps keep growing. We’re expecting at least 1,500 football players at our four sessions this year and I know the numbers are up for several of the other camps, too. We try to give the athletes their money’s worth. I think that’s the secret to success.”

While about a third of the football teams are from Nebraska, those from as far away as Minnesota and New Mexico are involved. Eighteen of the 26 teams pre-registered for the 8-man camp at the end of next week are from Colorado. A dozen Wyoming teams will have participated along with six from South Dakota.

The camps include a mixture of drills conducted by CSC coaches and scrimmages between the teams.

“It’s kind of a combination of work and play,” said Smith, the CSC head football coach for 18 years. “It whets the players’ appetite for football again after they’ve been away from it since last fall. Hopefully, that will carry over the rest of the summer. It also gives the coaches a chance to try some new formations and offensive and defensive concepts. It gives them an idea how to make things work in August.”

Several of the visiting coaches said the chance to have their players learn from the CSC coaching staff led by Bill O’Boyle, the Eagles’ new head coach, and Todd Auer, the defensive coordinator, is an attraction.

“The coaching staff here is the best,” said Jeff Tomlin, formerly the head coach at Alliance and now the coach at Grand Island High. “We brought 61 kids, about 10 or 12 more than last year. The players always learn a lot and it helps our team get ready for the season.”

Tomlin’s Islanders went from 2-7 to 7-4 last year and are hoping for more improvement this fall.

Another Grand Island coach, Tony Allgood of Northwest, brought 62 players, nearly double the number of a year ago. “We encouraged last year’s freshmen to come with us this year and 22 of them signed up. We’re trying to get them going a little earlier,” Allgood explained. “We love the intensity that the college coaches bring.”

This won’t be the last the Grand Island players see of O’Boyle this summer. In July, he’s going there to conduct what he calls “a trenches camp” for linemen. Players from Hastings and Kearney also will participate.

Both Tomlin and Allgood said the bus ride to the camp and three days of practicing and living together at the camps helps build team unity.

“There’s a lot more to be gained than just football,” said Allgood. “It helps develop a sense of community among the team members.”

Last year was the first time Grand Island Northwest came to the CSC camp. Four seniors on that team have signed letters of intent to play for the Eagles this fall, including Brandon Harrington, who won the gold medal in both hurdle races at the state track meet this spring, and Aaron Cooksley, who will play in the Shrine Bowl. Harrington also will run track at CSC.

“The kids really liked it here, the (CSC) coaches did a nice job of working with them and this is where they’re coming to school,” Allgood noted.

While Smith said he’s never conducted a formal survey on the impact of the camps on CSC enrollment, he believes it is significant.

“We get a few football players every year who have been to our camps, but throughout the school year I see a lot of other kids wearing our camp tee-shirts who are not on the football team.

The camps also help the college budget. Smith said the football camps alone will pay the college’s food service something like $54,000 and the housing office nearly $45,000 for use of the dormitory rooms.

--By Con Marshall, Sports Information Director

The remaining camp schedule:

June 10-12—Girls’ basketball team camp

June 12-15—5th-12th grades girls basketball skills camp

June 12-15—11-man football team camp

June 15-18—8-man football team camp

June 16—9th-12th grade volleyball defensive camp

June 17-19—5th-8th grade volleyball camp

June 19-22—Wrestling team camp

June 20-22—9th-12th grade volleyball camp

June 25—High school volleyball team camp

June 26-28—Track and field camp