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Showcasing their talent

Programs are designed to keep athletes in minds of coaches

Posted: August 11, 2009 9:49 p.m.
Updated: August 12, 2009 4:55 a.m.

West Ranch graduate Jake Bernards kneels during the 2008 Beyond 2000 Elite Football Program held at California Lutheran University.

 
Summer camps aren’t just about improving skills anymore.

Nowadays, some of those camps serve as a showcase for aspiring college athletes.

“I think what camps do is get kids’ names out on the forefront,” said Brandon Huffman, the West football recruiting coordinator for Scout.com. “It basically keeps their name on the forefront in the offseason when there’s not a lot of news.”

In addition to camps run by recruiting services and sporting goods companies, most major colleges, including the Pac-10 schools, hold camps during the summer for high school athletes.

UCLA holds close to 80 camps every summer right up through Labor Day, and most of the 22 varsity sports offer a camp of their own.

“Just about every sport that we have here, we usually offer a camp,” said Gavin Crew, UCLA Director of Camps and Clinics.

Crew does the administrative work for each camp, and he says about a third of them are for high school athletes, while the rest are youth camps.

He also notes that UCLA’s upper-level camps are very similar to actual team practices.

“The general policy is that what we teach here at camps, we practice with the team,” he said. “We advertise it as, ‘Learn from the coaches what you’ll learn as Bruin athletes.’ In most of the sports, they treat it like a regular practice.”

Depending on the sport, Crew said, kids can gain considerable acclaim with solid showings at camp.

“It probably varies on a case-by-case basis,” he said. “Any kind of exposure is good exposure, I guess.”

Just ask Jake Bernards.

The recent graduate of West Ranch High School was a two-sport star in football and baseball.

His first love is the gridiron, but he didn’t have much interest from colleges entering his senior season last fall.

That changed once he attended the 2008 Beyond 2000 Elite Football Program  (B2G for short) at California Lutheran University.

“The biggest thing that helped me in the camp, it was really all the best players from Southern California,” Bernards said. “So just working with them, it was just playing with the top athletes and making my skills better.”

By all accounts, Bernards was the most impressive quarterback at the camp – a group that included San Diego native Tate Forcier, who is currently the favorite to start this fall at the University of Michigan.

“The camp lasted three days and two nights,” he said. “We did everything from seven-on-seven drills to one-on-ones. We’d do footwork drills in the morning and then the afternoon was more like specific position drills.”    

After his performance at B2G, Bernards received looks from the University of Washington and the University of California, Davis.

He eventually accepted a scholarship from San Diego State University.

Bernards also attended camps at UCLA, UC Davis and the USC last summer.

“I think you have to be careful,” he said. “There are a lot of camps. There are camps out there that are out to get your money, but if you do the right research, there are camps out there that have your best interests in mind.”

Even if athletes don’t have the stellar outings that Bernards did at the B2G Football Program, Huffman says the experience is worthwhile.

“It gives college coaches an incentive to visit a school they did not before,” he said. “Now that coach can say, ‘I need to go by that school and pick up transcripts.’ Now the coaches have incentive to watch the kid’s first few games of senior year and keep an eye on them.”

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