Town basketball camps return after pandemic-imposed hiatus

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For nearly 40 years, the Hopkinton Summer Basketball Camp has been an annual fixture in town. Established by legendary Hopkinton High School coach Dick Bliss in 1983, it often is referred to as “Bliss Camp.” The COVID-19 pandemic canceled the sessions last summer, but the HHS basketball coaches and community are excited to bring them back this year.

“We are really looking forward to bringing the tradition of Bliss Camp back this summer,” boys coach Tom Keane said. “It has been an extremely worthwhile experience for Hopkinton students of all basketball levels and abilities. As coaches, we really missed the experience last summer, and we know that having missed it last year will make it all the more special to be back this year.”

The first camp session for the girls will run from June 28 to July 2 and the second from July 19-23. The boys clinics will take place from July 12-16 and July 26-30. Grades 4-6 will play at Doyle Gym at Hopkinton Middle School, while Grades 7-9 will be in the high school’s athletic center.

Sessions from daily from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m. Each week costs $250.

“From a coaching standpoint, it’s a great way to just get a basketball in kids’ hands,” said girls coach Mike Greco. “You never want them to go from the end of one season to the start of another without any practice. We do what we can to make it fun.”

The goal, Greco said, is to get players excited about hoops so they keep playing with their friends all summer long.

The program has been a longstanding tradition dating back to when Bliss ran camps in both Westborough and Hopkinton. Keane said he attended the Westborough camp every year through the eighth grade before being hired by Bliss as a counselor, then as a coach, then as a director. Keane started running the boys camp in 2006. Greco, another camp alumnus as a player and a coach, runs the girls camp.

“This camp was so popular that residents in Westborough would wait in line on the sidewalk in lawn chairs waiting for Bliss Camp registration to open at the Westborough Town Hall,” Keane said.

The camps originally were run independently by Bliss and then in affiliation with the Hopkinton Basketball Association. They now are under the umbrella of Hopkinton Parks & Recreation (registration is ongoing at the Parks & Rec website).

Last summer marked the first cancellation in the camp’s 38-year run. In a normal year, attendance is strong, with the boys’ camps routinely selling out. Both coaches said they are not sure what to expect given the circumstances this year.

All campers will have to wear masks and will be placed in groups of 10 that will stay together throughout the week. The number of campers allowed in each session may change, depending on whether state guidelines continue to loosen heading into the summer.

In addition to providing some fun and skill work for young players, getting the camp going again continues the cycle of participants who go on to coach. Greco, Jay Golden and Mark Sanborn all are former campers and current HHS staff who have worked the camp for years, and college students often return to coach the younger athletes.

“The camp generates a wonderful sense of community,” Keane said.

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