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Border League camp brings out the best

Eastern Washington coach, Beau Baldwin, far right, and WSU defensive coordinator Mike Breske, left, watch with WSU inside receivers coach David Yost, as local high school athletes battle it out during the Border League camp at University High School. (Tyler Tjomsland)

Local high school football teams and college coaches converge in the Valley

When taking high school football players to college for summer camp became too expensive, a handful of area coaches decided to find an alternative.

Out of the brainstorming four years ago was birthed the Border League camp – bridging, at its core, the Greater Spokane League with the Inland Empire League.

Now they’re bringing the college coaches to the campers. About 39 college coaches – from Montana to the University of Washington – got a look at the players from 12 teams Tuesday.

Eastern Washington University head coach Beau Baldwin brought 10 of his 11 coaches. When second-year Montana head coach Mick Delaney got word that EWU would be at the Border League camp en masse, he decided to bring as many as possible, too. Call it a Big Sky Conference showdown – although the two rivals aren’t scheduled to face off on the field until Oct. 26 in Missoula.

“It gives you an opportunity through the whole day to see probably 400, 500 or 600 kids,” said Delaney, who brought six of nine coaches. “The coaches are working right with the kids at different (drill) stations. It’s a great opportunity for all the college coaches to legally come to a camp and work it. In the long run it’s an opportunity that saves you a ton of (recruiting) time. It’s a great concept.”

Washington had six assistants at the camp and Washington State had three.

The 12 teams were divided into two groups – half at Central Valley and the other half at University. The coaches were divided, too, and they rotated to both schools so they could see all the players.

By NCAA rule, for the coaches to attend the camp two things had to happen. First, the coaches had to be camp clinicians. Second, they had to be paid.

Each coach received $20 – a nominal fee required by the NCAA, said Lake City coach Van Troxel, who, along with Coeur d’Alene coach Shawn Amos, Post Falls coach Jeff Hinz, Central Valley coach Rick Giampietri and Ferris coach Jim Sharkey, were part of the group that formed the Border League camp.

“All that’s required is we pay them something,” Troxel said.

Troxel said by forming the camp, coaches have essentially been able to cut the cost of an athlete participating in half as opposed to attending a team camp at a college. In most cases, the schools also make a little money for their programs.

CdA, Lake City, Post Falls, Ferris, CV, Gonzaga Prep, Mead and Moses Lake were the original eight. The second year University came on board. Last year, Moses Lake dropped out and Shadle Park and Sandpoint were added. This year Lewis and Clark and Glacier out of Kalipsell, Mont. joined.

“I’ve been to camps for more than 30 years,” Troxel said. “I know more about high school football camps than 99 percent of the college coaches who are trying to run camps. This is the best camp in the Northwest, hands down.”

The coaches meet in January to begin planning for the summer camp. They meet once a month through May.

“The only thing we were missing were the college coaches,” said Amos, whose primary camp responsibility was lining up the college coaches. “I don’t think anybody thought we’d be this successful (getting the college coaches). It’s a great opportunity for the kids to be seen. Border League camp is incomparable to any we’ve been to when you consider the competitive factor. Every team you scrimmage is good. That alone sets it apart.”

Amos remembers writing out checks to team camps at colleges for $25,000. Now the cost is half because the schools feed their own athletes and they get to sleep in their own beds at home.

When Giampietri was convinced Border League would offer everything that his athletes could get going to a college camp, he was sold.

“We had to make it as good as going to a team camp at a college,” Giampietri said. “It kind of ruined Idaho’s camp the first year. We were all going to Idaho. Now their camp is going again.”

Talk to any football coach and most will tell you that fall games aren’t won in the summer. They can, however, be lost if enough homework isn’t done during that time.

Border League camp fits the bill.

“It’s great competition,” Giampietri said. “You get to be in game-like settings and coach your kids. You’re not banging against each other all the time. And you can do some experimenting, find out where kids can play. You learn a lot, and you learn in under heat and pressure. It just benefits you a lot in the fall.”

Baldwin worked with quarterbacks. Although he couldn’t be specific, Baldwin said he plans to follow the progress of a couple this fall.

“It’s a good deal for us to be out here and work this thing,” Baldwin said. “It’s perfect for us … we’re 20 to 30 minutes away and some of our guys live even closer than that. It couldn’t be better. You see certain things on film (when recruiting) but it’s always kind of fun to see their body language, their eye contact, how they respond to coaching. More than that, too, we get something out of it and hopefully the student athletes get something out of it too. Many times we’re saying the exact same thing their high school coaching is preaching to them but all of a sudden they hear it from us and it sounds different. But it’s really not.”