Phyllis McGuire | View from the Village: Summer sports camps at Williams a world of fun, training

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WILLIAMSTOWN — Williams College students scatter far and wide on summer break, but the campus is not a lonely place.

The college rents out dormitories and other facilities, bringing people of various ages to the campus to attend cultural, educational and athletic programs.

The `62 Center for Theatre & Dance is the summer home of the Williamstown Theatre Festival, which has attracted 40,000 attendees in its 10-week seasons.

And more than 1,000 youngsters reside in dormitories as participants in Williams Summer Youth Programs, such as Nike junior sports camps.

I happened to see the Nike lacrosse campers and field hockey campers on Spring Street recently. Well, I suppose it would have been impossible to not notice 140 girls carrying lacrosse sticks and field hockey sticks as they walked three abreast to Weston Athletic Complex.

Speaking with Christine Mason, the director of Nike lacrosse camp who works closely with Alix Barrelle, director of Nike field hockey camp, I found out that girls 9 to 18 are eligible for those camps. Campers come from all over the United States and England.

"Lacrosse popularity has exploded in the last 15 to 20 years, especially internationally," said Mason, who retired from Williams College in June after 33 years as head coach of women's lacrosse and assistant coach of women's field hockey. "I love the college competitiveness," Mason said.

Of instructing Nike campers in the last 12 summers, Mason said, "I enjoy working with young kids and helping them learn the skill better. It's a lot of teaching, but gratifying."

Mason helps the campers off the field as well as on the field, searching for items they misplaced and supplying things they forgot to bring from home.

The campers are supervised from the time they check in on Sunday until they check out on Thursday. Seven coach/counselors assist Mason.

"Williams College Conference Office sets us up with rooms and reserves the (Weston) field for us. We eat at Paresky Center." Mason said.

Every day there are two practice sessions, totaling five hours, plus an evening scrimmage starting at 6:30.

Margo Bernardino, a 14-year-old from Rhode Island, said her favorite is evening scrimmages.

"It's like playing a game," she said. "You do get very tired but if you keep hydrated and get a good night's sleep, you are OK."

As a camper for four summers, Bernardino likes living in a Williams dormitory.

"It's fun meeting people from different places," she said, "and Williams is littler than a lot of colleges, so you get to meet everyone."

In relax mode at night, if the young athletes want to go to the Williams snack bar for pizza, Mason goes with them.

"And when we go to Lickety Split (on Spring Street) for ice cream, the workers are great — the line moves fast," Mason said. "People ask the girls about camp and where they are from."

Homesickness is a common malady at summer camps, and according to the director of the Nike lacrosse camp, "There always seems to be at least one camper who struggles with homesickness, but most of them make it through the week."

Some girls leave camp prematurely to compete in tournaments, but no one wants a girl to cut short her camp stay because of homesickness.

"We keep an eye on that girl, and talk with her. Ask some other girls to include her, if she came to camp alone," Mason said. "We also let her know plenty of people get homesick, but they'll be fine. Many of them come back the next year and are more confident."

It is not unusual for campers to return year after year.

"It's fun, Mason said, "to see them coming from elementary school through high school, and then being recruited by college coaches."

Phyllis McGuire writes from her home in Williamstown. The opinions expressed by columnists do not necessarily reflect the views of The Berkshire Eagle.

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