A stay-at-school camp for Garnet Valley

Posted: August 25, 2012

Just as it has in years past, the aged, small cot will return to the attic of Ryan Van Horn's Delaware County home.

It doesn't provide the most comfortable sleep, Van Horn said, but for five nights so far this week, it has been sufficient.

Along with the rest of the Garnet Valley football team on Saturday, Van Horn will wrap up a week-long overnight training camp at the school. With a unique approach, the team sleeps overnight inside school classrooms and practices three times a day outside.

The camp, an annual tradition at the school since 1984, is more cost-efficient than going away to camp, coach Mike Ricci said. It also allows his Jaguars to use their own facilities, as they practice on the same field on which they'll play their home games and work out in their own weight room.

Parents volunteer to cook and serve meals three times a day in the school's cafeteria.

"It's a lot better than what we get in school," Van Horn said as he sat with a platter of stuffed turkey. His mother, Glenis, is one of the parent volunteers.

Eleven classrooms are lined almost wall to wall with beds, and the players receive room assignments based on their class. Lights are required to be turned off by 10 p.m., and the players usually talk for a while before falling asleep. At 6 each morning, they are wakened by Ricci's piercing whistle.

"This morning, we actually didn't wake up by his whistle. We heard it from the other classroom," quarterback Ryan Corkery said Thursday. "So we all got up and turned the lights on and said, 'Don't blow it.' "

Team captain Steve Elf said the camp brings the team together and leads to success in the Central League. The Jaguars finished last season 9-0 in the league and 11-2 overall. The camp started one year before Ricci took over the helm.

"The football and the plays will come," Elf said. "But, later down the road, we need to be a good team and be good friends."

Air mattresses are the most popular choice for sleeping, but Corkery uses a small innerspring mattress made by his father's futon company.

Van Horn's is the same one that his father used in college a few decades ago and was later used by his brother, Sean, who went to three Garnet Valley camps before graduating in 2009.

"It's pretty bad, actually," Ryan Van Horn said. "I can feel the ground beneath me."

Despite its lack of comfort, Van Horn said he wasn't quite ready to ditch the bed.

"I don't know about that," Van Horn said. "Maybe if I have some younger cousins who come up, I can give it to them.

"Well, they'd probably want a new one. They don't want to sleep on this."

Contact staff writer Matt Breen at 215-854-2814, mbreen@phillynews.com, or on Twitter @matt_breen.

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