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Sports Camp Confidential

Sportsparent on kid o infoToday I welcome Melissa Brusso, a mom from Pawtucket, as a new contributing writer for Kidoinfo. In her column, Home Plate: Reflections of a Sportsparent, she shares her wit, wisdom, and experience regarding the world of sports with her husband, “SportsDad”, their daughter “Stretch”, age 10 and their son, “LittleMan”, age 7.

As the weather warms and spring is really here (come on, suspend judgement), I can hear Coach Paul Janaway booming in his English-accented voice about the importance of sun lotion and drinking plenty of water, and the very real threat of squirrels helping themselves to your poorly wrapped lunches. I remember the huge, mesh bags of soccer balls waiting on the dewy grass, the requisite Sergio Mendes’s “Mas Que Nada” playing in the car (yes, every morning), and the LittleMan jumping out of the car and racing off before I can manage to park. Yep, it’s almost summer.

And that means camp, particularly the handful of sports camps that my children have enjoyed the past few summers.

LittleMan on kid o infoFor a city of our size, we have a terrific selection of sports camps located in a ten-mile (or so) radius of say, Seven Stars Bakery. Many of these camps are excellent and run by some quality individuals from the education and athletic communities. Whatever your child’s sports interest or ability level, there is a sports camp that would be suitable and age appropriate.

The following is an anecdotal and freely editorialized roundup of some of the sports camps that my two children have experienced first-hand and that we look forward to attending again. It is not a complete listing, but hopefully, it will provide an angle on the camps that a newspaper listing does not. It will become more complete as readers add comments about other excellent sports camps–especially camps outside the Providence area–so please add to the list in the comments section!

– The above-mentioned Coach Janaway of Proactive Soccer can be found at Moses Brown Plus camp all summer–and at Henry Barnard School during the school year. Because he is a physical education teacher as well as an athlete (check out his soccer cred on his site!), Janaway brings to soccer camp an understanding of children and development, as well as a passion for soccer. So even the youngest and most inexperienced campers feel at home with age-appropriate and fun drills that never feel over their heads. And rest assured, more experienced soccer players are also challenged at their level. Everyone is expected to play hard and do his or her best–and everyone does.

One neat feature of Janaway’s camp is that campers are grouped by ability and performance, rather than age–so you might see a five-year-old playing with a group of mostly seven- and eight-year-olds. This is a good opportunity for kids whose soccer leagues would normally group strictly by age (U8, U10, etc.). And no worries–if a child is grouped out of their same-aged peer group and is reluctant to join the much older kids because none of his or her friends are in that group, Coach Janaway is quick to default to whatever the child is comfortable with. On most days, the camp takes place outside on the Moses Brown field behind the field house (Alumni Avenue). On rainy days, the younger kids move indoors to the Moses Brown field house and play indoors, and the older kids play like they do in England–rain or shine.

Moses Brown Plus (the school’s camp component) offers other sports and non-sports camps as well. While soccer is the only sports camp that the LittleMan has participated in, I have it on good authority that the tennis camp is also terrific. Check out the Moses Brown Plus site for complete information.

– The weather during this spring’s April school vacation was, in Coach Ryan Levesque’s words, “a blessing from the soccer gods.” This was the second year that My Two have spent their vacation kicking, dribbling, and generally improving their game at Mike Noonan’s Brown Soccer camp. Held on one of Brown’s turf practice fields just behind the athletic complex (and indoors if rainy), Noonan’s camp is one of the best soccer experiences in Rhode Island–and a destination for kids from all over the state. You will see noticeable improvement in your child’s soccer skills after a single day of camp. The camp is run by the men’s head coach Mike Noonan, his assistant coaches, and a group of Brown players who are wonderful mentors to camp participants (and have nearly rock-star status with the kids). The coaching staff has a great sense of balance between Taking Soccer Very Seriously and understanding the age groups that they are working with–and the kids know it.Brown Camp on kid o info

Coach Noonan’s youth soccer camp program (which runs during April school vacation and during part of summer) includes a full continuum of camp experiences, from the Competitive Day Camp (which is for both recreational and competitive players) to Elite Youth Residential camps for the most competitive players. A complete listing of sports camps offered by Brown University can be found on their website.

– Christina Batastini is arguably the best women’s basketball player to come out of Rhode Island. After playing for Classical High School and Stanford University and serving as a coach for Brown, she is now head basketball coach at Lincoln School, where the Christina Batastini School of Basketball is also based. She offers a variety of clinics, individual workouts and instruction, and camps, primarily for girls. While my Stretch (age 10) has not attended Coach Batastini’s summer camp, she did attend a basketball clinic for girls several months ago and will likely attend one of the Summer Jam sessions this year. Coach Batastini’s devotion to basketball is contagious. The girls who attend her clinics and camps work very hard to improve their skills and have a lot of fun in the process.

– Last year, the LittleMan came home from a Providence College Friars game with a flyer for PC Basketball Camp. A Rhode Island institution for the basketball-minded, PC camp was always where I thought the LittleMan would be someday as a much bigger boy, but I thought he was too young, at six, to enter that cauldron of testosterone. Well, I was overruled by a very persistent LittleMan and by SportsDad, who reminded me that he went to PC camp and loved it (ahem, as a teenager). So off Little Man went.

No doubt, the PC Basketball Camp is very much a man-scene, and the age range (at least last year–six through seventeen) was a bit daunting for a mom to behold. But LittleMan had the time of his life. He can’t wait to return this summer and see what new Head Coach Keno Davis brings to the camp. The boys were sufficiently broken down by age, and the staff somehow made six full hours of basketball per day a whole lot of fun for campers. My sources say that this year’s camp is for boys aged six through thirteen, and I suspect that this will allow for even more separation of the age groups. High school and college level coaches and college players work with the boys in small group drills and games, ending with a tournament on the last day of camp. It is definitely the place to be for the young and basketball-crazed.

– Also worth checking out: Challenger Sports British Soccer Camp at Pawtucket Youth Soccer (PYSA) (, see also the PYSA site for more camp info; tennis camps and clinics all summer long at Tennis Rhode Island in East Providence; sports camps at Providence College; and many more, from Westerly to Woonsocket. This is where the Kidoinfo readers come in–please add to this list, with comments about your kids’ sports camp experiences, as we look forward to a sports-filled summer.

PHOTO CREDIT: Melissa Brusso

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  • Your sister!? That’s great—say hello for us.

    I suppose KidOInfo will have to start covering some far-flung kids’ events for YOU guys!

    Great to hear from you, Jay—and we all have The Shirt and are ready for Irish football already.

  • Thanks, Flossie—so far, it has mostly been word of mouth, or some other involvement with the organization that runs the camp. For example, we were thinking about soccer camp and a Henry Barnard parent sang the praises of Paul Janaway, and it made us want to try Moses Brown…daughter attended a basketball clinic and now wants to go to the camp with the coach who runs the clinic.

    So—it’s a combination of us initially checking out and choosing (or strongly suggesting) a camp, and the kids’ feedback when deciding whether to attend again.

  • Neat idea for a column — how do you decide which camps your kids will go to? Do you involve them in the decisions?

  • Coach Ashley at the Barrington Y is great. It doesn’t matter what the sport is. If she is the coach, kids will love it and be happy.