Parkland athletics summer camps begin registration

Greg Gancarz

Staff Writer

Parkland’s athletic department has opened registrations for this year’s upcoming sports summer camps, whose spots fill up rapidly according to Athletic Assistant Mickey Cler.

“We have to turn people away,” says Cler. “It’s that full – for all those camps.”

Parkland’s summer camps include women’s softball on June 20, women’s volleyball throughout the month of July, and men’s basketball from June 5–9. A baseball camp held in late summer is also a possibility, but dates and additional information regarding it are pending.

Both skill level and age varies from sport-to-sport, with volleyball and basketball typically being for girls in grade school through middle school, and the women’s softball being geared towards middle school and high school aged girls.

All camps are coached by Parkland athletic staff and coaches. Each camp utilizes student athletes to help train campers as well.

The camps have been operating annually for numerous years, with the softball camp in particular having been active for nearly two decades, according to Head Coach Chuck Clutts.

Clutts says the 40-camper roster for advanced skill softball usually fills up quickly. He says it’s a great chance to be seen by a college coach and the staff and student athletes “really like seeing the talent come out.”

“We’re very individualized and it’s really some great exposure,” Clutts says.

Although Clutts had plenty of good things to say about the camp, putting it on does not come without its fair share of headaches. From time to time, there are some problems the staff can do little about.

“The weather is the most challenging part of running the camp,” Clutts says. In the past, three straight days of rain forced the camp to be postponed.

Storms aside, the camp has proven to be an excellent way for youth to get college-tier instruction, and the Cobras in particular have played in the NJCAA National Tournament over half a dozen times since 2002.

The camp also serves to raise funds for the college’s softball department, an important role each of the camps play for their respective sports.

The basketball camp will engage students ages 8–14. Suitable for all skill levels, Head Coach Anthony Figueroa says campers should “just be ready to have fun and work hard,” as they learn all basic basketball skills like ball handling, foot-work, and shooting. Figueroa believes the best part for the campers, who usually number around 50 each year, is taking part in the games and enjoying the competition.

Figueroa has been involved with the basketball camp for five years and says the best part of the experience for him is “meeting new kids, and seeing the returning kids who have improved over the last year.”

Eight-year Parkland coaching veteran Ron Hoppe coordinates the volleyball camps. Held from late June through late July, different camps serve as training for various skill specializations like setting and serving. Campers are typically grouped by age range within each camp.

“We start each camp in groups based by age and then move athletes up to different age groups as we see fit to ensure they’re learning and being pushed, but also continuing to have fun,” Hoppe says.

The number of slots available ranges from 20 in the more advanced camps to 60 for more general skill training. According to Hoppe, the more volleyball advanced camps are typically for athletes “interested in pursuing Parkland as a recruiting option.”

In addition to coordinating six different camps, Hoppe and the coaching staff also host three high school volleyball tournaments over the summer, which usually have a combined total of over 50 different teams.

While Hoppe notes there are numerous aspects to hosting the camps that he finds positive, he particularly enjoys the community interaction.

“I love seeing people in the community come out and spend time with us [and] get to know us,” Hoppe says.  “Sharing a city with the University of Illinois, our athletic programs often get overlooked, so these camps help people learn about us and get excited about us.”

Hoppe himself has about 20 years of volleyball experience, and head coach Cliff Hastings has over 30 years. The coaching staff’s experience shows with the Cobra’s NJCAA National Championship victory in 2016.

Interested parties can gather more information by visiting Parkland Athletics’ website at www.parkland.edu/athletics or by calling the department directly at 217-351-2226.