Summer camps build championship teams

Oak Harbor sophomore Jessica Sain, left, gives 7-year-old Jayden Collins a few pointers on how she needs to keep the fingers of her glove up to make sure she gets a good grip on the ball whenever it is thrown or hit to her. - Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times
Oak Harbor sophomore Jessica Sain, left, gives 7-year-old Jayden Collins a few pointers on how she needs to keep the fingers of her glove up to make sure she gets a good grip on the ball whenever it is thrown or hit to her.
— image credit: Tim Adams/Whidbey News-Times

Coaches know that winning teams aren’t created in preseason practice.

At most high schools there are only two or three weeks of practice prior to the first game, and that isn’t nearly enough time to get players in shape, evaluate and make decisions who will be on the varsity roster, teach everyone what the game plan is going to be this year and all the other little things that go into the creation of a championship team.

With many sports coaching has become almost a year-long proposition with summer leagues and off-season practice sessions, and summer camps play a big role in building for the future.

When varsity and junior varsity players attend camps coaches have the opportunity to work on more complicated drills but when younger kids show up, that is a big plus for the program.

In the past few weeks softball and basketball camps have been held for elementary and middle school athletes by Oak Harbor coaches assisted by members of the high school teams, and the turnout has been great.

Two weekends ago, softball coach Jessica Weikle conducted a softball camp at the Hillcrest Elementary School field and many of the younger players were somewhat mesmerized just being on the varsity diamond and having the opportunity to work out with the high school players.

Weikle said they didn’t have a large number of younger players sign up for the camp, but many of the varsity and junior varsity players were there and this gave them the opportunity to practice together during the off season.

Sophomore Alyssa Siwa said playing left field on the OHHS junior varsity team last year was probably her favorite season.

“I got a lot of hits and I had a lot of fun playing,” she said.

Making plans to return to the softball diamond next year is sophomore Jessica Sain, who said she didn’t play this season because of a shoulder injury.

“I was the team manager, but I’ll be ready to play next year,” she said.

Sain was busy at the camp assisting 7-year-old Jayden Collins on how to hold her glove the correct way when catching the ball.

Collins said she played North Whidbey Little League softball this summer and liked it.

“I play pitcher, and I think it’s a lot of fun,” she said.

Varsity basketball coach Brett McLeod and junior varsity coach Fred Burleson enjoyed a large turnout of younger players and high school athletes at a three-day camp at North Whidbey Middle School.

Burleson said they had 32 or so players at the camp.

McLeod will have a number of positions to fill on the varsity roster this season and many of the freshman and junior varsity players were working hard on improving their basketball skills.

Kaitlynn Rossman, who played on the freshman team last year, said one of the major things she’d learned at camp was to get her shots to arch so they have a better chance go in the basket.

“I’m also working on my defense and trying to get better,” she said.

Tatiana Cumming said she was also working on her shooting and learning how

to bring her elbow in.

McLeod and Burleson were both making use of an unusual-looking machine that McLeod said was purchased a couple of years ago.

Named “The Gun,” the machine automatically feeds balls and can be turned to different angles so shots can be taken from various positions on the floor.

A mesh net goes all the way to the top of the backboard and along the sides to teach players to keep their shots in a high arch, and also to keep balls from bouncing. After a basket or a miss, the balls drop back into the base of the machine so they can be fed to players once again.

“It cost $5,000 and we went together with the boys team to buy it,” McLeod said. “It’s a good one and it really helps out.”

For the younger players, the baskets were lowered to eight feet rather than the usual 10 and most of the practice time for the players in grades one through six involved learning how to dribble the ball to the basket before shooting, rather than tucking it under your arm like it was a football and running.

The basketball team is having a series of clinics from 11:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on July 7, 14 and 28 at North Whidbey Middle School.

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