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Thursday, September 15, 2011

Michigan Team Camp- Great Memories

In the mid-'80's we had struggled to beat Moline, we just could not get by them. So I was looking for anything that might help us get over the top. I heard Moline had been going to team camp in Chicago at Doug Bruno's team camp. So I figured if it was good for them, we would try it. So our first team camp experience occurred in 1988. It certainly was not a recreational experience, it was very intense. So intense that in the middle of a week a girl asked me to mail a post card for her (different era, no texting). Probably not ethical but I could not help but notice, all that was written was- "Get Me Out of Here!!!"

Not being real bright, I had us scheduled to go again in 1989. But in early June I got a letter from the Chicago camp saying they had cancelled our session and moved us to another session a week later. It would not work. I had no idea what to do, but I knew it would not work. Gary Bruington's daughter was playing and I told him my disappointment. I told him the only options I could find in the brochures I had were a couple too far away- one of which was Michigan. He said, "Why don't you look into taking the train?" I did and at the time it would only cost us about $75 per kid to take the train.

So in 1989, myself and Vicki Fields (the coach), and 9 players headed off to Michigan. I was not sure what we were getting into. But as we waited for the train, Barb Foxall (mother of Kelly) told my wife what a great opportunity this was for her daughter. Often you don't get feedback so that was wonderful to hear. The 11 of us headed off. The train broke down in Kalamazoo for about 3 hours so I had more questions. But when we got there the head coach, Bud Vandeweghe met us and helped us get settled into a dorm. We had the whole dorm to ourselves- no charge- a different era. It turned out to be a wonderful experience.

We continued to go to Michigan for about 15 years. By the time we got to the 2000's, coaches were asking us for directions around Ann Arbor. It could never have worked if we had not had my wife's aunt and uncle to "host" us. Lee and Pat Allen would pick us up at the train station and shuttle the girls to the dorms. And they would always take me out for dinner during the week.

We had great times, but my top ten stories from Michigan Camp....

12- The coaches were wonderful at Michigan. My all-time favorite was Bud Vandeweghe. He was great to us and was down to earth. And his father ran the largest t-shirt store in Ann Arbor.

11- Rumeal Robinson- he is the one who hit the big ft's in the championship game in 1989. And the first summer one of our players sprained her ankle and had to go to the trainer. Who was there? Rumeal Robinson. His advice- "If you are going to play basketball, you are going to sprain ankles, get used to it."

10- Walking and walking.

9- Hospital Visit- Coach Rux and I took a player to the emergency room. While there Coach Rux thought he was on CSI. Some people were there for illnesses and some injuries connected to crimes. By the time we left Coach Rux knew the status of all 10 people in the emergency room.

8- Red Hawk Inn- Coach Rux and I found that this little restaurant had much better food than the cafeteria. Great food.

7- Matt Pogue- Matt went along to coach our team one summer. Back then the IHSA would not allow high school coaches to coach in the summer. Matt gave one of the most inspiring speeches to our team the night before camp started. But what I will remember most is that Matt, Rux, and I roomed on the third floor next to where food was delivered for the Michigan Union. Starting about 5am we heard truck after truck beeping as it backed up to deliver food.

6- Hospital #2- One summer it was very hot. It was ten years after I had by-pass surgery. As we walked and walked, I become convinced I was having heart problems. I shared it with Coach Peachey, who does teach high school biology. His advice was to have a can of pop. I finally had enough, I went to the ER. They put me in the hospital. I flew back and had tests done. It turned out nothing was wrong. Indeed a can of pop was probably all I needed.

5- Train Delay- One year we had a very long delay as the train stopped. Everyone was starved. Amtrak ordered and got McDonald's food. When the conductor brought the food, Coach Rux told some of the girls that to keep it warm he had seen the conductor put the burgers under his arm. Sadly some of the girls fell for it and did not eat their's. Oh well, Rux and I had extras.

4- Cottage Inn- This was our end of camp team dinner. Camp would usually end about noon. The girls would shop in the afternoon and then we would go out to eat. The girls always were so proud of the work and having completed camp so they were ready to celebrate.

3- Les Miles- Les Miles is now the football coach at LSU. One night they had a coaches pizza party at Crisler Arena. Most of the Michigan hs coaches were busy interacting. Rux and I were at a table alone and busy eating. A guy came over and sat with us. He was the dating Kathy Labarge, a Michigan womens basketball assistant (later they got married). So for about two hours Rux, Miles, and I talked. He entertained us with Michigan football stories. My favorite was when he told us about another school trying to scare a recruit with a story about the poisons in the Ann Arbor water.

2- Standing in the Rain- One year on the last day we were undefeated and playing another undefeated team for the camp championship. The Michigan school had been to the Final Four the year before (and so had we), and the Michigan school had most of their players back (and so did we). The Michigan coach was very intense and seemed to think this was more than a camp game. We won the game. Their coach was not happy. We stood outside the gym under an awning waiting for the rain to slow up so we could walk about a half mile to the dorm. As we stood there, the coach and his team drove by in a van. He slowed down. The coach and all the players turned to us and gave us the finger. Our kids started laughing and someone yelled, "No, you're #2." That may have been one of the more enjoyable wins.

1- Wow- What a Night- I can remember the room and I can remember the people. But I cannot remember exactly what was said. The night before we started camp in the summer of 1994, we met to talk about the week and also about the season coming up. I had printed up notebooks with the theme, "Going Beyond Tradition." From 1988 thru 1994 we had won but we had never been able to win a Sectional. So our talk that night was about going beyond what had been achieved, and creating something special. I don't remember exactly what the players said or what I said, but I remember leaving the room knowing we were different than when we went in. I remember having goose bumps as we talked about the upcoming season. That team went on to win GHS's first Sectional in 1995. I am totally convinced we won the Sectional because of what we did at Michigan the summer before. And that led to many other teams "going beyond tradition."

Galesburg is a railroad town so for our team to take the train to team camps was really special. It was an experience that was so rewarding. Our Michigan Team Camp experiences were some of my enjoyable coaching experiences.


  1. Great stories ... all 12 of them!
    My favorites: Peachey prescribing a can of pop for heart problems (I'll have to remember that if I start feeling the big one coming on); and the team giving your team the finger.

  2. Great stories. As Jay noted, I love your top 10 that turned into 12!