When I was growing up in small town Nebraska, Nat King Cole came out with a song called Those Lazy, Hazy, Crazy Days of Summer. Cole sang, “Those days of soda and pretzels and beer.” That was exactly what it was like for me in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. The only beer I had was if I stole a sip from my dad as he was busy burning hamburgers on the grill. After all, I wasn’t a teenager yet.
Dad fooled me one day. He didn’t drink much, but he did like a long-neck Falstaff on those hot summer days. He especially liked a cold beer when he grilled. What I didn’t know is he used an empty Falstaff long-neck to carry kerosene. He used the kerosene to start the charcoals burning. As usual, I was in search of my secret sip of beer. This time, that sip ruined my appetite for beer.
If you have any school-age youth involved in any type of activity, the summer is anything but lazy or hazy, but it’s definitely crazy. Camps and team sports dominate the summer months. Parents struggle as they tag along to all the summer camps and other events.
When I came to Maryville in the summer of 1999, the first person to greet me was the late Scott Bostwick. One of my first objectives at Northwest was to establish a great summer camp atmosphere. Camps would help bring potential players and students to the Northwest campus.
Scott also had the same idea for football. In 1999, only the bigger universities ran football camps. Head football coach, Mel Tjeerdsma, was not sold on the idea. Scott could be very persuasive and soon had the first camps organized.
By the time he passed away in the summer of 2011, he had just completed a team football camp that would bring hundreds of youth to the Northwest campus. An added bonus, the parents which would give the businesses of Maryville a boost during the slow summer months.
I ran into several Maryville High School students preparing for this week’s Northwest team camp. I’m not sure the exact number of football players that come to camp each fall, but is a staggering number.
Not only do parents deal with traditional baseball events, but if you are a Spoofhound football player, at least one weekend is set aside for camp. It seems to be the ground level for each season as Coach Matt Webb has his team continue to dominate MEC and Class 3 football.
If you think the Northwest campus is dominated by lazy, hazy days of summer, you need to check out all the camps beside football. I can personally tell you that the basketball camp business is complicated and competitive.
Things were simple when I started my first camps at Doane College. Traditionally, camps run Monday through Friday, with four overnights. I hoped my college players would be good supervisors in the dorms. Mostly that was a false hope.
My first year at Doane College, the camps I started drew about 50 high school players. I knew I had to get more competitive and pricing was important. I made a deal with the head of financing that I would pay the normal housing rate of $9 per night for my first 500 campers. After that, he would take $1 off for every hundred campers after 500. Not much risk considering my biggest camp that first year was 50 players.
I changed from the week-long format to two and three day camps. Also, I ran a lot of camps on the weekends. I could avoid summer league and job conflicts. I concentrated on team camps since one group guaranteed eight to 10 players in camp. At the peak, my camp attendance soared to over 1,000 campers. That meant lodging as low as $3 or $4. I had one over the finance head, but he stuck to the deal.
I faced new obstacles at Northwest. I never reached the 1,000 camper mark with the changing competition. Suddenly, there were many club teams that played all summer long. Also, many small schools ran one-day team challenges that cost very little.
I countered by dropping the costs and offered the bare minimum to these camps. I took out the free T-shirts and the overnight lodging. My coaching staff and I scrambled to bring in camp players. Then there was summer recruiting. It wasn’t hazy and lazy for the college coaches either.
I know the three summer months are slow for businesses in Maryville that depend on college students. I feel their pain. Their pain would be a lot worse if not for the camps at Northwest. It’s just not football and basketball that run camps, either.
Mark Roswell shows off his championship tennis teams with four camps every summer. You would be surprised at the number of tennis players that annually mark his camp as a required learning experience. Rosie hasn’t changed it much over the years, but his attendance stays steady or even increases.
Of course, sports aren’t the only camps. One year, the Northwest Campus Dining had small circles of colored cardboard to show you had a meal play with a camp. My camp color was dark blue while a huge music camp had the light blue color.
Before each camp, the camp directors call campus dining with a number for meals. I received an angry call the year of the dark blue cardboard circles. I was called a liar by campus dining. I had turned in a count of 93 campers, but over 250 hungry campers showed up.
I was offended by the liar comment. Doing a little investigating, I found out they had mixed up the basketball color from the music color. Three hundred and fifty ate at the cafeteria on campus, but the dark blue was billed for only 93.
Maybe in a year or two when my son, Sam, is in college, I’ll have one of those lazy, hazy crazy days of summer that Nat King Cole sang about. It’s been a long time coming.