BURBANK — At no time in history has young girls and boys had so much to choose from when it comes to leisure activities.
From satellite and cable television with hundreds of channels, movies on DVD, computers and computer games and music on the go to suit any taste from rap to country, children have a multitude of choices.
But even with so many couch-potato selections, many youngsters are still choosing to take part in athletics and sporting endeavors.
In the summer in Burbank, young boys and girls have traditionally had a wide variety of sporting choices. Along with organized baseball and softball, swimming, Park, Recreation and Community Services Department events and YMCA goings-on, there is also a wide range of camps offered.
Aspiring athletes have camps to choose from in sports like basketball, volleyball and soccer. These camps provide a valuable learning experience for athletes who are either trying to improve their games or who are just out to have fun.
But staging these camps is no small feat. Individuals have to be part coach, part parent, part friend and often have to have the patience of Job. Trying to coordinate throngs of youngsters into a working unit, making sure everyone is happy and interested, is a daunting task.
However, there is a small, dedicated group of coaches who take on the challenge every summer to keep young athletes happy.
One of those individuals is Mike Graceffo of the Burbank Park, Recreation and Community Services Department. He has been staging camps for years and has a wealth of experience with youngsters.
Graceffo is in the midst of the first of two camps that will take place over the next two weeks. His MVP Summer Camp is in its 11th year and is currently taking place at Luther Burbank Middle School. This week's camp is for players in grades two through four, and next week's installment will be for players in grades five through nine.
"We have about 70 kids, so it's a good turnout," said Graceffo, who has been coaching for nearly 30 years. "[On Monday], we had some of the kids from Burbank and Burroughs come help us out and Village Christian [boys' Coach] Jon Shaw showed up and did some good stuff for the kids. We will also have [Burbank boys' Coach] Jose Hernandez coming."
At Graceffo's camps, he mixes basketball with a variety of other activities. Relays, a free-throw-shooting contest with trophies to the winners and raffles are also on top for the players. Also, each athlete will leave the camp with a certificate of participation and a personalized assessment book highlighting the camper's strengths and things he or she might need to work on.
"We want them to learn the basketball skills at the camp, but we also want them to have fun as well," Graceffo said. "We want them to have a positive experience, and learn about the game of basketball. It's summer; we want them to be able to have some fun."
Along with his annual summer camp, Graceffo also conducts a holiday camp in December.