Decade-long Glendale basketball camp still going strong

GLENDALE — No matter the month on the calendar, Tony Passarella can be found hard at work teaching area youths the fundamentals of basketball and exercise.

It's something that's been dear to Passarella, a Glendale resident who has been providing pointers on the game by running local camps for the past decade.

Creativity and a friendly demeanor help make it easy for the participants who attend the annual Kid's Summer Basketball, Training and Fitness Camp to understand the points Passarella diligently tries to teach them.

"It's mostly just about encompassing skills with agility and helping them become better decision makers," Passarella, the camp's coordinator, said Thursday shortly before the second of 10 weekly sessions began at Pacific Park Community Center. "Anything that can help them become happier and smarter, on and off the court.

"I love teaching youths about sports and tying things all together. I'm young at heart. Exercise is so important and it's something you need in order to play any type of sport. We work on different things here [at the camp] and they can do the same things at home."

Passarella, 64, played basketball while at L.A. Marshall High. He wanted to pass his knowledge on to incoming campers who attend similar camps taught by him in the spring, fall and winter. The summer camps are mainly geared for ages 5-12.

With Passarella eager and prepared to run the one-hour sessions, the campers are immediately put to the test.

Passarella had them complete a couple of calisthenics before doing some running drills to help them improve their coordination. Then the participants focused on practicing footwork, so they were set to work on several drills, ranging from passing to positioning for a shot.

"Footwork is vital to all sports, not just basketball," Passarella said. "With basketball, you can apply it to almost any part of the game."

The participants caught on to the exercises, including Amelia Mercado, 8, of Eagle Rock.

"The drills we do are really fun," said Mercado, who attended the camp last summer also. "I practice that and the footwork at home and when I'm outside because I want to become a better athlete."

Sixteen campers attended the beginner's session, which runs from 4 to 5 p.m. An advanced class follows from 5 to 6 p.m., giving Passarella ample time to share his knowledge about the game.

Passarella designs the camp's curriculum, which also includes teaching the values of leadership and team work.

"There's a lot of things that are involved," Passarella said. "Most of them are so eager to learn everything being taught and you will be able to see them improve from week to week. That can only help with their confidence. You want to have a positive impact on what they are trying to learn and you make sure they come ready to go."

Passarella placed a pair of speed ladders and 10 small cones on the court and then had the participants go through a pair of agility drills. The campers then dribbled the ball around each cone to help strengthen their stamina. They followed by working on their passing.

Lucas Sasso, 9, came set to learn in the advanced course.

Sasso, a Glendale resident, has attended three of Passarella's camp.

"I swim a lot during the day and then come over here to learn more about basketball and physical education," Sasso said. "I mostly want to improve with my shooting, dribbling and defense, but it's important to know about exercise, too."

The camp will run through Aug. 22.

For more information, contact Passarella at (818) 517-8822 or via email at

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