Shared football camp has multiple benefits
The annual football scrimmages between Somerset and St. Croix Central took on an additional element this year when a third team, St. Croix Falls, was added to the mix.
The teams used their five contact days early in the summer to get an early look at the 2013 versions of their teams. The two scrimmage days on Tuesday and Thursday became a high-intensity instructional session, with the coaching staffs working with players from all three teams.
The coaches said they have friends on the other coaching staffs and they wanted their players to see that there's nothing wrong with getting to know the players from the other schools.
There are strong bonds between the coaching staffs. St. Croix Falls head coach Grant Belisle is a Somerset graduate and a former Spartan assistant coach. Dave Rivard, a long-time Somerset coach, has joined the St. Croix Falls staff this year as the team's offensive coordinator.
Another bond is between Somerset head coach Bruce Larson, Spartan assistant coach Joe Hutter and St. Croix Central assistant coach Ben Lamb, who are all Spring Valley natives. Larson, Belisle and St. Croix Central coach Tony DiSalvo are all former UW-River Falls players.
The coaches said it's good for the players to see those bonds and to understand that they'll grow to know people beyond their hometown.
"Everybody respects everybody, it makes for a fun experience," Larson said.
DiSalvo agreed, saying all the coaching experience on the three staffs made it seem like the players were at a large football camp.
"We don't care who you are, we want you to become a better football player," DiSalvo said of the idea of having the teams practice together.
Larson said he'd love to see even more teams added to the scrimmages. He said adding St. Croix Falls meant "it was 40 more kids to have fun with."
It's hard to argue with the success of the scrimmage idea, after Somerset won a state championship last year and St. Croix Central lasted deep into the state playoffs. Both teams have a large number of players to replace and this gives the coaches an early start on setting their lineups for the upcoming season.
"We hold it in June because if someone gets hurt, you've got six weeks to get them back," Larson said. "It really sets the groundwork for the year."
DiSalvo said the players who attend the camp should have a solid understanding of the systems that the teams will run this season. It gives them six weeks to study what they've learned, so they can come into the season with a working knowledge of the systems. He said it was most beneficial for the players trying to earn increased playing time.
"It was important for our young guys to see the speed and tempo they'll have to play at on the varsity level," DiSalvo said.