The beaches are full, the thermometer’s are close to the century mark and the coals are hot on the grill. That means one thing for aspiring athletes across Tampa and the rest of the country: It’s time for summer camp.
Summer camps provide an opportunity for youngsters, from the first grade through the tenth an outlet to tune their skills on the fields and the courts, but it also provides USF and its coaches several opportunities as well.
Throughout the summer, several Bulls coaches are conducting summer camps. As men’s soccer coach George Keifer’s camp completed today. The women’s basketball coach Jose Fernandez and men’s basketball coach Robert McCullum’s are in full swing.
“It’s an opportunity to teach the fundamentals of basketball, and it also is a great opportunity for public relations,” McCullum said. “It’s an opportunity to get kids on your campus, and it’s an additional source of income for coaches.”
McCullum’s camp has been in session for four weeks already and the rest of the camp sessions will run from July 7 through Aug. 1.
Fernandez’ camp also has been running for two weeks, and will continue through the first week of July. The women’s basketball camp has held high attendance so far. For two weekends, the camp pulled in 115 campers, and up to 60 teams in one week. Fernandez utilized five courts in the Sun Dome, one in the Corral and all four in the Campus Recreation Center.
High attendance USF the opportunity to showcase its campus for recruitment in the classroom.
“Anytime you can get kids on campus, those are prospective students for USF,” McCullum said. “It’s the first inkling or level of interest of the university. So the interest has a chance from the early encounters with the universities.”
The university isn’t the only one benefiting from the camps monetarily. All the coaches involved use the camps as a way to supplement their income. Assistant coaches and the high school coaches that counsel the camps gain the most with income from the summer sessions.
Camps are a must at every university and are all but guaranteed in a head coach’s contract.
“Just how the language is said from place to place is different, but that’s a given,” McCullum said. “You need to have camps. It’s pretty much a given.”
While the public relations proceeds go to the university and the specific sports program, the economic aspects of the camps goes completely to the coach.
Kiefer’s inaugural soccer camp at USF, where attendance wasn’t as high as he predicted, charges $99 per camper.
Mostly, assistant USF coaches and high school coaches throughout the area conduct the camps. McCullum and Fernandez lecture during their camps, while Kiefer gets involved in the coaching.
“I enjoy it because you are teaching fundamentals to young kids,” Kiefer said.
During the camps, coaches get a chance to benefit more than just another source of income and the enjoyment of teaching the basics. With hundreds of kids coming to their campus to play basketball or soccer, they get a chance to see some kids that might have the potential to play for USF. It gives them a head start on recruiting.
Fernandez hosts an elite camp consisting of players from grades nine to 12, with athletes coming from as far as Texas and Puerto Rico.
“It’s a big recruiting tool for our elite camp and team camp,” Fernandez said. “Because we have teams from all over the country at our team camp.”
Fernandez has been running his camp for three years and is starting to reap the recruiting benefits. Incoming freshman Jessica Dixon was a participant at Fernandez’ camp before signing to play for the Bulls.
It’s taken us three years to build” Fernandez said. “We’ve built these camps from scratch.”
No matter what the youngsters’ impression of the program or the university are, the USF coaches’ summer camps are helping guide young athletes around the Tampa area and beyond.
“You have different levels of interest,” McCullum said. “Some kids are really sincere about being a basketball player, and some kids might not be sure and might want to learn more in the summer months to hone their skills and get some more teaching and coaching.”