Camps support athletes, programs

Before the final IHSA state tournaments are held, some coaches and athletes at Hinsdale Central will start preparing for the fall season - and beyond.

The athletic department is offering summer camps in a dozen sports and one in strength and conditioning, with some holding sessions for athletes as young as first grade. Among the offerings will be one new one - girls flag football.

"It's starting from scratch, truly, because out of my 23 years of coaching, this is brand spanking new because normal male football, seven on seven, is still slightly different than what we are going to be participating in," head flag football coach Nick Gebhart said.

The Hinsdale High School District 86 Board voted last month to field a team at Central to be part of the Illinois High School Association's inaugural 2024-25 season.

Gebhart said the female version of the sport is played on a smaller field with different rules. Interested athletes will need to become acclimated to the sport quickly, he said.

"That's why I'm going to try to have open gyms now to at least get the ball rolling, where I'm doing a lot of the front-load teaching," he said.

How those sessions go will determine the focus of summer camp, which could involve learning formations or focusing on speed and agility or skill development in throwing and catching.

"There's just so many different things that we could attack," Gebhart said. "Me and my assistant coach, Maria Cotter, are going to throw some ideas around, and I'm going to see what the girls can pick up in the open gyms."

While Gebhart is leading camps in a new sport, coach Brett Moore will be running a camp for a team new to him. He was hired last month to be the new girls varsity basketball coach.

"For me, a high school camp is a great opportunity to evaluate where we're at, what we need to do," said Moore, who has 12 years of previous experience as a varsity coach on the boys' side and served as assistant boys varsity coach this year.

"I think I'm pretty familiar with the team, but coming in, this is a brand new fresh start for everyone at the same time," he said.

In addition to the camps, high school players will compete in the Montini summer league and a couple of shootouts. The athletes will play 20 to 30 games over three weeks in gyms that can be quite hot in June.

"That can be a grind, but it's also a really good time to bond as a team," he said. "There are a lot of positives that come out of it. It shows you where you can start off in November as a team."

Moore also enjoys working with the rising third- through eighth-graders in the youth camp.

"For the youth camps, it's great for getting to meet these young athletes early in the process," Moore said. "We have a lot of success in programs I've been in in getting kids in year after year."

Gebhart is offering a youth camp for girls flag football, too.

"We're going to try," he said. "Some of the girls who have expressed interest, they were really adamant about 'I would have loved to start this as a youth.' "

Girls will learn basic skills and play games.

"At the end of the day, it's about getting girls active, developing self-confidence, improving their fitness level, working on teamwork, sportsmanship," Gebhart said.

Bobby Deftos is a Central basketball player who benefited from attending youth camp as a kid. After he graduates in May, Deftos will spend part of his summer coaching the youth camp for the fourth year in a row. He said the youth camps he attended as a kid gave him the opportunity to hone his skills and play in front of high school coaches.

"Everyone gets super competitive, the level of play is pretty high and it definitely had an impact on my game," he said.

He praised varsity basketball coach Nick Latorre and the quality of instruction.

"The same stuff he's teaching these 11-year-olds is the same stuff he taught us at 17," he said.

Deftos runs his own basketball camp and enjoys making connections with kids who might be interested in signing up. But that's not the only thing that makes coaching summer camp special for him.

"There's 100, 200 kids there that all just love to play the game, and there's 15 to 20 Hinsdale Central players that also love the game and love teaching and love being around these young kids, and there are 10 coaches, adults, who have dedicated their entire life for this," he said. "There is a sense of community." The summer job also brings back wonderful memories for Deftos.

"It's nostalgic for me," he said. "I loved this camp. To see the joy and all the same stuff I felt when I was 9, 10, 11 is something."

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Pamela Lannom is editor of The Hinsdalean