Richards boys basketball coach John Chappetto. | File photo
John Chappetto has been hosting youth camps for a decade, but this year’s was extra special for the Richards High School boys basketball coach.
“My kids and their friends are all in the camp now,” he said. “That’s really awesome. Charlie is in sixth grade and Louie is in second grade. We’ve had a lot of Charlie’s friends in it the past few years and now we’re starting to get Louie’s friends. That’s the best part.”
Chappetto’s fall minicamp, for boys in grades three to eight, was scheduled to run through Wednesday at Richards.
For Chappetto — an accomplished coach who led Richards to a state championship in 2008, the same year he was named the state’s Coach of the Year by the IHSA and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association — camps are a vital part of his program.
“It’s very important to interact with younger kids,” he said. “It’s important in building for the future. It helps build a neighborhood feeling that maybe Richards doesn’t always have.”
Chappetto said this is the 10th year of the camp at Richards. The basketball program also hosts a summer camp.
“We get a lot of the same kids that keep coming back every year,” he said. “Us and Marist always seem to have camps going on at the same time, and we compete a bit to see who will get the best attendance.
“Our fall camp is always a little smaller than our summer camp. The lower numbers aren’t a bad thing, though, because they make it easier to manage. It makes it easier to interact with kids individually.”
The Richards coaching staff and some Richards players lead the camp, and both groups take a lot of value out of it, according to Chappetto.
“Our players really like it when they’re there and they’re helping,” he said. “These younger kids really look up to them. If it was normal for kids to be asking high school kids for autographs, these guys would definitely be asking our players for them.
“Our coaching staff loves it. At the beginning of the season, it gets us back in the gym and it helps us recharge our batteries. It’s a fun time before we have tryouts and have to make cuts and all that, which is never fun.”
The camp’s focus is on fundamentals and helping players sharpen their skills again, perhaps after a long offseason.
“The original intent was just to get kids back in the gym and get them back playing,” Chappetto said. “We’re hoping that when these kids go to their tryouts, they can show their coach one new thing they learned at our camp.
“Beyond that, we just want the kids to have a lot of fun.”