NORTH ADAMS -The sky was overcast Wednesday morning, but that wasn't stopping the fun on Brayton Field, where children enrolled in the Northern Berkshire Y's summer sports camps were playing ball with members of the North Adams SteepleCats or participating in some old-fashioned backyard games.
The Y's summer sports camps have undergone a bit of a makeover this year.
"We're really excited about this summer," Kathy Mancini, child care director, said Wednesday. "We've made some changes to our sports camps, making them a lot more structured. One of the biggest changes is that instead of having them on different fields around the city, we're holding them at Brayton Field, which is just below the Y."
The change in location, she said, has many advantages: The children are within walking distance to the Y if the weather turns bad; there's access to restrooms nearby and there's less time spent transitioning between activities - sports in the morning and swimming in the pool in the afternoon.
"When we planned the camps this year, we looked at things from the parent point of view, such as pick up and drop-off is in one spot now," she said. "We've also hired Erica Varieur as the sports camp coordinator. She has years of experience in local camp programs and in the community. She's had our program running like a well-oiled machine."
To assist Varieur, the Y has also created three new lead counselor positions, who oversee the weekly offerings - two sports camps and a half-day "Itty Bitty" camp geared toward children ages 4 to 6.
"Each has a lead counselor in charge of the enrollment and all of the paperwork for kids," Mancini said. "When a problem arises, someone is right there. The last two weeks have been so smooth having that extra person, who is not counted in our ratio of one adult for every 10 children. We have a whole extra staff person."
There's also a renewed emphasis on community involvement.
"We've really pulled people in from the community to help with the camps," she said. "Vernon Cross, who was captain of the MCLA men's basketball team, and his teammate, Dominique Bostick, are in two of the lead counselor positions. We also have Bob LeClair, head football coach at McCann Tech, leading our football camp, and our gymnastic coach Erica Liljestrand is leading our gymnastics camps. As usual, we have 13 SteepleCats players working for us this year."
In addition to leading the SteepleCatsthemed baseball camps, the players work throughout the summer at the sports camps and at Camp Abenaki, the Y's day camp at Windsor Lake.
"This group of young men have been nothing but a pleasure," Mancini said. "Every one of them came to us with some type of prior experience, whether it was working at a summer baseball camp, day camp or some other kind of experience with children."
She added, "It's amazing to see them working with the kids. There are bonds being formed. Last week, we had a our Itty Bitty SteepleCats baseball camp and at the end of the week we gave each child a small baseball with our logo. It was signed by all of the players who are here. The kids just loved it."
On Friday, children participating in the SteepleCats baseball camp will participate in the SteepleCats game as "baseball buddies."
The camps have also been restructured to ensure participants are engaged in some sort of activity at all times.
"In the past, we've had some less structured time in the afternoons," she said. "Erica has worked hard to ensure that the kids are constantly being busy. We've created a schedule for our sports camps outlining what time to do this and what time to do that. If an activity finishes early, we have a folder of impromptu games to play. The kids are really having a blast."
The sports camps, which are geared toward children ages 7 to 12, run from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday to Friday. Beforeand after-care is offered at an additional cost for children ages 7 to 12. Itty Bitty camps, for ages 4 to 6, run from 9 a.m. to noon, Monday to Friday. Financial assistance is available. For more information, visit ymcanb.org or call 413-663-6529.