Sports clinics let young athletes learn from high school coaches

By Douglas McCulloch | Jul 07, 2017
Photo by: Douglas McCulloch Nathan Medeiros, Brennan Carter, AJ Furtado, and Aidan Winderlick practice football drills.

Young sports fans used to viewing buzzer-beating three-point shots from the stands are now doing it themselves.

Dartmouth High School’s summer sports camps pair incoming second- through ninth-grade athletes with high school coaches for a week-long clinic in a specific sport. Camps are offered for five weeks, and cover between two and three sports each week. From July 3-7, coaches ran programs in football, tennis, and girls basketball.

“We have young girls that are just starting out playing basketball,” said Dartmouth High junior varsity basketball Coach Brian Jalbert, running the girls basketball clinic with a large crop of new players. Jalbert himself is an alumnus of the sports clinic, and has fond memories of attending them when he was a kid growing up in Dartmouth.

“The goal is to have them come here three hours a day, have fun, and get them interested in basketball,” he said, adding that because basketball can be complex, it’s harder to keep kids engaged.

Ella Houlihan, 10, plays basketball with the Dartmouth Girls Athletic League. After attending several of her cousins’ games, she was inspired to get into the sport. Now, she’s using the high school clinic to brush up on her skills and pick up new ones, like the tough-to-master crossover dribble.

At the football station, high school football coach Justin Zexter built fundamental skills with his students. For some in his cohort of athletes, the camp is their first exposure to football outside of television.

“A lot of the kids watch football,” Zexter said. “We have a decent number who play pee-wee football and a decent number who haven’t played at all.”

Zexter concentrated on teaching game fundamentals, including throwing and catching, footwork, plays, and drills. He also mixes in fun games, like football-themed capture the flag, to reinforce lessons and emphasize the importance of teamwork.

Although Sean Martin, 12, does not play football on an organized team, he has attended the sports camp several times over the years, and keeps coming back owing to the fun atmosphere coaches and athletes create.

“It’s not super serious, but you do learn a lot, and you get to have fun,” Martin said.

In tennis, Dan Sadlowski’s players spanned a wide age and skill range, but some of his older players stepped in to teach the younger ones to supplement his instruction on the basics of the game.

“This group works really well together,” Sadlowski said. “Different [skill levels] can make it tough, but they really excel and work together.”

Ian Hamlet, 12, is brand new to tennis. He started playing earlier in the summer, but had trouble mastering it.

“I was hitting it out of the park before, but now I feel like I have more control,” Hamlet explained.

Others, like Isaiah Beckwith, 11, are a bit more experienced. Beckwith learned tennis from his mother, who signed him up for the clinic. Despite his experience, however, he’s still learning things like proper foot placement during serves.

Campers can sign up for just one week of the camp, or all five, explained Camp Director Sam Madden, and necessary equipment can be provided by the camp.

Owen Andrade runs with the football during a capture-the-flag game. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Jason Martin dives to make a catch. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Ella Houlihan and Ayva Furtado practice passing and blocking. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Hannah Garcia practices dribbing techniques as former varsity basketball player and Dartmouth High graduate Cali Andrade watches. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
Emily Figueiredo, Caroline Leone, and Lauren Nielson practice their serves. (Photo by: Douglas McCulloch)
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