Each trek to summer camp came at a hefty price. Hare estimates it cost his players $13,000 to attend a camp in Redding, Calif. last summer. He stressed the bulk of that cost was camp, not travel. The Cougars’ sixth-year coach knew in tight economic times a $250 camp cost per player was no easy expense for families. So he started to look at options and what he’s come up with may be the new summer camp template for prep football programs.
“I asked (Washoe County School District coordinator of athletics) Ken Cass what constitutes a camp. He said you have to have another team there and it can’t be at your own facility,” Hare explained. “(Former SSHS assistant) Vince (Johnson) had just gotten the job at Wooster so I said to him, ‘let’s do this on the cheap. Wooster didn’t have any money for camp either. Vince said ‘Great.’
“It was really late in the game. Most people had committed to a camp, but I just sent out an email to other coaches and told them for 30 bucks a head we’re going to run a camp at Golden Eagle (Regional Park). I told the coaches they can run it however, but it will be coach led not camp led. The camp is not designed for you, but designed for what you want to do.”
The concept was a quick hit. In addition to Wooster, coaches at North Valleys and Reno quickly got on board and agreed to bring their squads. The four schools worked out Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. this week at the City of Sparks’ aforementioned Golden Eagle Regional Park.
It didn’t take long for Hare to realize a camp he had designed to save money for his team had quickly become a fundraiser.
In four previous years, Hare had taken his team to summer camp twice in Gold Beach, Ore., then to the University of Nevada’s camp and then last summer to Redding. His team camped out in Gold Beach and in Redding and stayed overnight at home while at Nevada. The more Hare thought, the more he asked himself one key question.
“What are we getting for our money,” he said. “No camp is less than $150 per player and then you have to get insurance and transportation. I just didn’t understand what our money was going for.”
Hare said most team camps set aside time for teams to practice and scrimmage. He added that at college camps like Nevada’s, there may be a few instances where college coaches run break-down drills for individual positions. But he added that at 250 kids per college coach, there’s no special individual instruction taking place.
Ultimately, Hare just came to the conclusion that everything he gets from a camp, he and his Cougars staff could do themselves.
“We have loved it,” Hare said. “This is going to grow. It’s going to be a big deal. I’ve talked to a lot of coaches who like the philosophy. You come and practice and then you go home to eat and sleep. Next year, I’m thinking of morning and evening sessions. We can get everything done that we do in any other camp. Coaches decide what’s best for their team, not the people running the camp.”
Given this was the first time a local school had explored hosting its own team camp, Hare had to clear hurdles with the school district, but that got done with relative ease as he explained the cost benefits for the student athletes and their families.
“Certainly not paying out that money and achieving the goal of getting your kids in pads was good,” Cass said. “It’s worked well for all those schools ... I really like Scott’s energy and he’s really tried to do the right thing. He’s done everything we asked. He’s gotten insurance. He got a trainer on site. He’s done everything right.”
Spanish Springs players seem to be enjoying their experience.
“It’s just as fun as going somewhere and we didn’t have to pay so much,” said Cougars senior defensive end JJ Phoenix. “We paid so much last year. Now we get to sleep in our own beds. The artificial grass out here is cool.”
SSHS senior running back Taylor Swanson had similar sentiments.
“This is a lot better,” he said. “It is way more organized. This year we get to work with our team more. I feel like we’re getting a lot more done.”
The camp is expected to grow next year. Hare has even talked about trying to spread the word beyond the northern Nevada prep football community, noting his camp would be a cheaper alternative than other camps for schools that travel for summer workouts.
“I’m actually thinking we can get some out-of-town teams,” Hare said. “We can charge $30-$40 per kid and teams can stay in a hotel. I really think we can run a first-rate camp at Golden Eagle. I started this as a way for my kids not to spend so much money and not give it to another school. Now we’re looking at the structure to improve this. We’ve knocked this thing out of the park We can make it a big deal.”
Indeed, having Golden Eagle as a close option in the Spanish Springs Valley is a major plus. The city complex is comprised of all artificial grass fields. It has multi-use football/soccer fields as well as youth baseball and adult softball fields. Most who have seen the complex rave about its pristine amenities.
“If we had real grass out there, we’d probably be more hesitant to allow a football camp because of the damage the kids could do in a short time,” Sparks Recreation Coordinator Tony Pehle said. “Spanish Springs gets the non-profit rate...We’ve kept the fees as low as we could. Having these fields is great.
“I met with a guy on the slo-pitch USA national team. He is one of the top guys in the world hands down and he’s played everywhere. He brags to other people that the city of Sparks has the best complex anywhere.”