Jul 16, 2009 Ami Olson Uncategorized
When John Coccia returned home for summer break in 1995, he knew what he wanted to accomplish by starting a week-long basketball camp for Marcellus youth: a camp where fun and fundamentals, not competition, were the focus.
“One thing we stressed was keeping kids moving, teaching them fundamentals,” Coccia said. “Even if a kid doesn’t like basketball, they can still have fun.”
Then a graduate student at Springfield College in Massachusetts, Coccia recruited a handful of his fellow students that he knew would be great with kids and kicked off the first year of HoopMania Basketball Camp.
Coccia said he selected other coaches who would be great with kids, and wanted to offer local youth a camp right at home in Marcellus.
And 15 years later, the camp has grown each summer, with many campers returning each year until they were old enough to coach themselves.
On July 3, the 2009 HoopMania wrapped up with a special visit from Coccia and some of the original coaches of the program.
“This is awesome – I love to see that it’s still going,” Coccia said. He wasn’t the only one who remembered the first year and has watched the program grow.
Megan Blackmer, 17, has been attending the camp each summer since she was first eligible, at age 5. She remembered Coccia as her favorite coach back then, and was excited to see him and the other former coaches back in the gym.
“It was the highlight of every kid’s summer, and it still is,” Blackmer said.
That’s because coaches like Coccia just want to teach kids the basics, and have fun doing it.
“We all love kids, that’s why we’re here,” Blackmer added.
Adam Bergevin, 21, is the new head coach, and it was his 12th season at HoopMania. What keeps him coming back is the sportsmanship and teamwork the camp focuses on.
“It’s not super competitive, the goal is to get them better,” Bergevin said. Having attended other basketball camps as a high school athlete, Bergevin spoke from experience that camps for older athletes tend to focus more on the competition.
“We have structure here, too, but want kids to have fun,” Bergevin added.
Seeing Coccia and the other founders of the camp — Mark Christensen, Chris Rogers, John Coccia, Bob King, and Dennis Haughney — scoring a dunking contest among the current coaches and taking on their younger counterparts on the hardwood, was a reminder of how much fun the camp is, and always has been.
Coccia said when he started the camp he just wanted to get good reviews from campers. Fifteen seasons later, it’s safe to say that mission has definitely been accomplished.