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Camping on the Gridiron
by Dan Eckles
Jul 31, 2013 | 1727 views | 0 0 comments | 28 28 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs receiver Sam Preciado (in white) hauls in a pass with a Galena defensive back in pursuit.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Spanish Springs receiver Sam Preciado (in white) hauls in a pass with a Galena defensive back in pursuit.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Sparks quarterback Mastor Sells rolls out and looks for a receiver downfield Wednesday.
Tribune photo by John Byrne - Sparks quarterback Mastor Sells rolls out and looks for a receiver downfield Wednesday.
Summer camp is supposed to be fun, a time for arts and crafts, a time to enjoy the mountain air as well as the smell of the trees and refreshing sensation of the cool water. But that’s not exactly what Spanish Springs football coach Scott Hare had planned when he decided to put together his own summer camp.

The sound of banging helmets and pads and the stench of sweat to go along with a few tears was more along the lines of his thought process. He got just that.

Hare and his Cougars coaching staff wrap up a third-straight summer camp Thursday in which they have organized and coached the five-day event. The annual camp is held at Golden Eagle Regional Park. For years Hare, along with his staff and athletes, had attended camps organized and hosted by a third party, like the University of Nevada or groups based in Redding, Calif. or the Oregon Coast.

Now the school’s athletes save the inflated cost of a camp and the corresponding travel and food expenses. But are they having fun?

“I don’t know if they’d use the word ‘fun,’” Hare said. “This is hard work. They’re happy they’re playing football, but they’re out here for four hours in the sun, practicing hard. A lot of times they’re getting their butt chewed, because it’s early and they still don’t know exactly what they’re doing. This week is good and it’s necessary, but I don’t know if they’d call it fun.”

Hare had an epiphany two-plus years ago when he questioned why he should charge his players an exorbitant camp fee and trek them hours away to an out-of-state camp just to still coach his own players and get in a few scrimmages. He felt pretty confident he could do that right here in the Truckee Meadows and reap the same benefits.

So he checked into the guidelines set forth by the Nevada Interscholastic Activities Association, the state’s governing body for prep sports, and the Washoe County School District. State policy allows high school football programs to attend one week-long camp a summer in which they can wear pads and go through full-contact drills. Ultimately, Hare found no reason he couldn’t organize his own camp and it’s proved to be a trend-setting venture.

Wooster, whose head coach Vince Johnson is a former Spanish Springs assistant, has attended all three Spanish Springs camps. Galena has now been back-to-back years and Sparks is a newcomer to the event this summer. North Valleys and Reno have also competed in years past. Additionally, other Division I North schools like Reed and McQueen are now hosting their full-contact own team camps.

“This camp is great. We’re all trying to get better, which is the way it should be,” Galena coach Steve Struzyk said. “We’re kind of treating this like double days since we won’t have that this year. You have to do something because everyone else is. If you don’t you’ll miss out.

“Evaluation is the biggest thing about camp. I don’t care if you’re watching 7-on-7 without pads or 11-on-11 in pads, it’s great for our staff to not have to game plan, to just coach and make adjustments. This really helps big time.”

Sparks High coach Rob Kittrell has taken teams to summer camp in the past, but not in the last five years. His current players have never been to summer camp. The veteran Railroaders coach thinks his decision to give the Spanish Springs camp a try this summer is a good one.

“It’s been good for us,” he said Wednesday morning. “I’ve seen marked improvement from Sunday to today. That’s been nice. After this ends, if everybody can retain what they’ve done and pick up on Aug. 19 (the first day of full-contact official fall practice), we’ll be much further ahead than we’ve ever been.”

The new WCSD school calendar calls for the start of classes Aug. 12, meaning the early school start will eliminate double-day workouts. However, with Sparks playing in the Division 1-A ranks, all but one of its league opponents reside outside of Washoe County, leaving nearly all of Sparks upcoming opponents the ability to still get in two-a-day preseason practices. That was the biggest impetus in getting Kittrell to bring his Railroaders to camp.

“We’ve been improving,” Kittrell said. “Our timing is getting better. We’re getting more physical. That’s really what I’m most happy with. Everybody looks great against air, but when you get to put the pads on, you find out what you need to work on.

“Sunday night we came out here and had a practice with just our kids. It looked like one big pillow fight. I was scared to death. But this camp has been good. We’ve gradually gotten more physical and more confident ... When you’re more confident, you play faster.”

With three years of hosting summer camp under his belt, Hare likes the product he’s put together and the benefits its brought for his players. He fine tunes some things, but said for the most part, he hasn’t changed the focus of the camp. So he’s living by the old adage, ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.’

“A lot of the stuff is the same,” he said. “The biggest thing is we’ve gotten a lot of stuff on film. We’ll get to go back and watch how the kids approached and handled a lot of different things.

“I just think it’s great because a lot of it is coach led. Nobody is out here to kill somebody else or just scrimmage all the time. We’re all just focused on getting better and staying within the structure of our practice plans.”

Nevada’s high school football programs are allowed a four-day heat-acclimation period Aug. 10-14. During this period, players cannot wear any gear. August 15 is the first day of non-contact workouts, which allow athletes to wear helmets only and then Aug. 19 is the first day of full-contact drills. Most local schools participate in scrimmages on Aug. 24 and Aug. 30 is Opening Night for the 2013 fall campaign.
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