SOUTHWEST GLENDALE — It's not like Tony Passarella to stop brainstorming for ideas. With a creative mind and a sunny disposition, the longtime Glendale resident constantly searches for ways to improve his annual basketball camp by adding a new wrinkle.
Passarella's latest plan found him combining physical fitness with life lessons and applying it squarely to basketball, a sport he once played while at L.A. Marshall High, during the ninth annual Kid's Summer Basketball, Training and Fitness Camp at Pacific Park Community Center on Thursday afternoon.
For Passarella, the camp's coordinator, there's more to basketball than shooting free throws or playing a zone defense. He had nearly 20 participants hard at work Thursday during the ninth week of the 10-week session that will finish Aug. 23. Passarella had them go through some agility drills before observing each camper working on several basketball exercises during the one-hour workout.
"The camp curriculum is designed by me, and there's a lot of things that are involved," Passarella said before Thursday's session geared for ages 5-10. "Most of these kids are beginners and it gives them an idea about teamwork and not giving up in life.
"You can see the improvement from week to week. Their confidence grows. I try to be a role model and influence and point them in a positive direction. It's about trying to make a difference in their lives and go over what their parents have already been telling them."
Passarella wasted no time putting his class to the test.
Passarella put down a pair of speed ladders and eight small cones near midcourt and then had the participants conduct a pair of agility drills. One by one, the campers diligently completed their footwork drills before running to each cone and touching it.
The cones were then placed on the baseline, where each participant dribbled the ball around each cone to help build their stamina. They followed by working on their shooting.
At the end of the session, Passarella briefly reviewed what was covered and prepared them for the last week.
Mason Lange of Glendale and Amelia Mercado of Eagle Rock grasped the drills taught by Passarella.
"It's about the full principles, like having your eyes focused on the rim and bending your knees and not your shoulders when shooting," said Lange, 7. "You want to be able to concentrate well and be fit to play basketball.
"I like to play a lot of different sports, but I especially like basketball."
Mercado, 7, said the fitness tips have helped improve her game.
"That's what gets you going," Mercado said. "Tony wants to see us get better.
"It's great learning about basketball from him and how to go out there and play. I just want to keep getting better."