Massapequa’s next generation of student-athletes are getting an early start, and they are learning from the best. The district’s Summer Sports Camps feature Massapequa High School coaches and athletes as instructors.
Youngsters can learn skills for more than a dozen sports at the weeklong camps, which are mostly held at the high school campuses and Berner Middle School. Current varsity and junior varsity athletes, as well as recent graduates, share their experiences. They teach rules of the game and strategies, while emphasizing sportsmanship and teamwork.
A girls volleyball camp for students entering grades 2-5 was held the first week of summer vacation, followed by camp for incoming sixth, seventh and eighth graders the week of July 10. Varsity head coach Amanda DelGiacco said that students rotated through different stations to learn blocking, hitting, passing, serving and setting, then put their skills into practice in games.
Rising senior Allison Petrullo, who will soon play her fourth year on the varsity volleyball team, attended the camp when she was younger and now is an instructor.
“I love being able to help the little kids learn the sport,” she said, “and hopefully they find a passion for it.”
While the girls were bumping and setting in the high school gymnasium, a boys volleyball camp was taking place in the Berner gym. Varsity coach Elissa DiSalvo and assistant coach Nick Breslin, along with student instructors and volunteers, were teaching the same skills to boys entering grades 5-8.
“We pride our program on teaching them to be good teammates,” coach DiSalvo said.
Varsity player and rising senior Tristan Rezza hopes to pass on his knowledge of the sport to the middle school-age players. This is his second year working at the camp.
“I love teaching the kids how to play volleyball,” he said. “I want them to develop a love for the game and continue to play it into their high school careers. Hopefully, one day, they can be in our shoes.”
The week of July 10 also featured a girls lacrosse camp at Berner and a boys lacrosse camp at the high school.
Varsity coach Erin Kollar and her student instructors taught the basics of the sport to girls as young as first grade. The skills included catching, cradling, defense, passing and shooting.
“The girls really enjoy working with the varsity players,” coach Kollar said. “They seem them on the field during the season, and now they get to be with them on the field to learn from them. The young girls look up to the varsity players.”
Frankie Antonelli, who is entering fifth grade, plays lacrosse with local youth leagues and aspires to be a Massapequa varsity player. She said the instructors are very helpful and encouraging.
“I like to work on lacrosse because I’m passionate about it and I want to get better at it,” she said. “The instructors are really good lacrosse players. They’re really nice and good coaches.”
A speed and agility camp, open to high school-age boys and girls, meets three times a week for five weeks. It includes conditioning exercises on the field and weight training in the high school fitness center. Kevin Shippos, varsity football coach, said it is open to all varsity and junior varsity athletes to prepare for the upcoming year, and focuses on exercises that they can do at home to stay in shape.
The baseball camp also meets for the duration of the five-week program due to its popularity. Varsity baseball players lead centers where the youngsters learn all the different aspects of the sports including hitting, pitching, fielding and baserunning.
Recent graduate Michael Vilardi, who was on the varsity team for three years and will play baseball for Queens College, said he enjoys working with the students who will someday be wearing Massapequa jerseys. As a former camper himself, being an instructor makes it feel like his baseball career has come full circle.
“I just want the kids to have fun,” he said. “If they walk out of here learning just one thing, my job as a counselor is complete.”
Other sports camps this summer include basketball, cheerleading, field hockey, football, golf, gymnastics, soccer, softball, track and field, and wrestling.
–Submitted by the Massapequa School District