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Opinions vary on camping home or away

| Tuesday, Aug. 13, 2013, 12:01 a.m.
Rich Downer/For The Valley Independent
Monessen's Clintell Gillaspie puts a hit on teammate Zerick Howard during drills the first day of camp at Memorial Stadium.

To go away to camp or not to go away?

That is the question and area high school football coaches had some interesting answers as the first of two weeks of summer camp kicked off Monday.

A lot of coaches who take their teams away to camp for one of the two weeks believe in the thought of getting away and being isolated for many reasons.

Some coaches feel otherwise and like the familiarity of being in your own surroundings as you prepare for the upcoming season.

Locally, one team that normally does not go to camp opted to do so this season (Charleroi). Another that has traditionally spent a week away (Ringgold) decided this year to stay home.

A third program that has gone to camp in the past (Belle Vernon Area) has continued a trend of training at home while yet another (Monessen) continued a long tradition of spending both weeks of camp at home.

Charleroi second-year coach Ed Jenkins took the Cougars to Slippery Rock University after spending camp a year ago by having his team camping in the high school gymnasium.

Going away to camp is nothing new for Jenkins. As a head coach at Leechburg, his teams went to Jennerstown. And when he was the defensive coordinator at Kiski, the team went to Slippery Rock.

“I believe in it immensely,” Jenkins said of spending time away. “We thought we needed to come together as a group and we felt that by getting away we could accomplish that.

“We are a young team and we need to spend as much time together as possible to come together,” he added. “It's a different atmosphere (at Slippery Rock). It's good for the kids, good for the coaches. It's training and bonding. It's team unity. It's a respect thing and you can't put a value on that.”

Meanwhile, after going to California University his first three years as head coach at Ringgold, Ram mentor Matt Humbert opted for the confines on Joe Montana Stadium and more familiar surroundings.

“It's a mixture of things why we decided to stay home,” Humbert said. “There are pros and cons of going away or staying and we weighed them. There are many good things you get from spending time away, but in the end we felt it was best for the group we have to stay home in our own comfort zone.”

Humbert said by staying at home, the Rams get to spend all their practice time on the artificial turf of their stadium, use the weight room facilities they are familiar with and the meeting rooms.

“Don't get me wrong, Cal U was very good to us,” he said. “But we felt it was best to let everyone be in a situation they are all used to.”

At Monessen, 10th-year coach Andy Pacak said the Greyhounds have never gone to camp and he sees no reason to start now.

“Everything you need as a football team, we have,” Pacak said. “We have a great facility, a place to eat and I prefer that the kids sleep in their own bed.”

Pacak added there are other reasons for keeping the team at Memorial Stadium.

“There will be 50 or more people here every night watching these kids practice,” he said. “It's a community activity and the whole community keeps an eye on us and I don't want to take away from that.”

He added that the community's youth programs practice at the stadium in the evening and he likes the fact that the young kids can watch the varsity team practice.

“Our young kids get an idea of what is expected of them,” he said.

Pacak added there is also a logistics problem with going away to camp.

“Heck, we just had a couple kids sign up (Monday),” he said. “That happens here. Once you get on that bus and go away, you can't do that. Plus, if something happens to one of the kids and we're out in the woods somewhere, what do we do? Where do we go? Here, if something happens and we have an emergency we know exactly what to do and where to go. I just like being home.”

BVA coach Aaron Krepps has never taken the Leps to camp during his tenure, but he did go to camp as a player for BVA back in 1999, so he remembers vaguely what it was like.

“I prefer to stay at home,” Krepps said. “For one thing, from a coach's standpoint, to take 60 kids away for a week is a big liability. There are good things to going away, like team bonding. But, all in all, I like being here.

“As a player, I liked being home because there were always meals when I got home and I like sleeping in my bed. If you are home, you at least have some normalcy every day.”

Krepps added that staying home is advantageous for his coaches.

“Gone are the days when all the coaches are teachers,” he said. “My coaches have jobs and some of them probably would not be able to go to camp and that would make it tough.”

Jeff Oliver is a sports editor for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at 724-684-2666 or joliver@tribweb.com.

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