BRANDYWINE HUNDRED – The sounds of bouncing basketballs and children’s voices filled the fieldhouse at St. Edmond’s Academy earlier this week, signaling at least a step toward a normal summer. It was close, but the school in north Wilmington was able to proceed with its annual camp, now in its 50th year.
Camp director Nick Sanna estimates he has been to more than half of those camps, beginning as a junior counselor when he was an eighth-grader at St. Edmond’s in the early 1990s. This year’s camp was in doubt until about two weeks ago, when the state said youth sports could resume as the coronavirus pandemic continues.
“I think the parents were pumped to get them out of the house, to get a sense of normalcy again. Getting them around their friends with a basketball in their hands again is something, I think, they’re excited about,” said Sanna, a teacher and the boys’ basketball coach at Saint Mark’s High School.
Some accommodations had to be made in the name of health. Campers have their temperatures checked each morning. The basketball is stopped three times a day for hand-washing. Counselors wore masks and tried to keep the kids separated as much as they could. The children are not required to wear masks.
“A lot of little nuances you wouldn’t have thought about a year ago,” Sanna said.
“The biggest challenge for us is, the games were always the biggest staple of camp, and the kids can’t do it. So we’re doing shooting competitions, foul shooting competitions, stuff like that. They still have teams, but it’s a little bit different.”
Thirty-three boys and girls signed up for the first week. The camps will run another two weeks. Some of the campers will be there for all three, while others are doing just a week.
In addition to working on dribbling, passing and other skills, the campers were scheduled to hear from a number of local basketball coaches. Ursuline Academy assistant coach Frank Panunto spoke on Monday. The Raiders’ head coach, John Noonan, was set to come in during the week, as was former Penn and Temple men’s coach Fran Dunphy.
Two of the older campers, Nate Zehner and Tommy Hanna, spent the spring playing basketball in their respective driveways and were happy to be back in a gym. Both will be attending Tower Hill School in the fall.
Zehner used the spring without sports to rest his body as well as work on his jump shot.
“It’s really nice not being cooped up in my house, playing sports, being active all day. It’s definitely good for my body and my game,” he said.
He plans on playing sports for Tower Hill and is hopeful that the 2020 football season happens.
Hanna said the lack of sports in the spring allowed him to pick up some new hobbies and to practice with his two younger brothers. He said the St. Edmond’s camp was beneficial, even without the games.
“I’ve definitely had a lot of fun at the camp. I think they’re doing a really good job,” he said.
The campers were not the only ones happy to be back in a gym. Sanna said he’s been communicating with his Saint Mark’s players virtually, but to do some coaching in person was a boost.
“It’s been great,” he said. “I thought yesterday I was going to be super-tired. I was so energized at the end of the day. It was the complete opposite. Just to get up in the morning and see kids, get to work with them, it’s really a blessing. It’s been a breath of fresh air.”
Sanna may be a bit tuckered by the end of the summer. After three weeks at St. Edmond’s, he’ll be running a two-week camp at Saint Mark’s.