For the seventh consecutive season, AX Armani Exchange Olimpia Milan has brought hundreds of boys and girls to the small town of Predazzo on the Dolomites mountain range in the north of Italy for the annual AJP Summer Camp. The camp is for children between the ages of 8 and 17 and its goal is to give the participants the feeling of being a member of a professional team and paying special attention to technical aspects of the game in a nice, fun atmosphere.
The camp site has grown to feature nine basketball courts, including five covered courts, to meet the needs of as many as 702 campers coming from as far away as Portugal, Spain, Finland, Switzerland and, of course, Italy itself. AJP Summer Camp offers five different sessions, starting in June and running through the end of July. The participants have a hectic schedule at camp, with two hours of practice in the mornings, 90 minutes in the afternoons and several tournaments to promote competition for improvement. Of course, there is also time for fun activities after dinner, just before going to sleep to get ready for another complete day of basketball.
The concept of the camp is to work with the young players at a high level, dividing them by age and level so they have personalized practices that even include video analysis. However, most important is for the kids to have a good time.
"I enjoy coaching the kids. You must be more patient, you have to smile and encourage them," legendary coach Dan Peterson said. "Every kid has to go out to practice with a smile on his face and joy in his heart to return the day after for practice. This is what they need to fall in love with basketball."
"Every kid has to go out to practice with a smile on his face and joy in his heart." - Dan Peterson
The camp, of course, has the presence of several classic Milan figures like Coach Peterson; Milan's second best all-time scorer and two-time EuroLeague champ Roberto Premier; former Milan and Italian national team player Marco Mordente; and Simone Pianigiani's assistant, Mario Fioretti, who has been working for the club for 12 years and was also an assistant coach on the Italian national team under Ettore Messina.
"I enjoy the time I spend with the kids, it helps me keep an open mind and feel young," Premier said. "I love to answer their questions and tell them about my experience on and off the court. The best comes the last day when the parents come to pick the kids up; they are closer to my age and they were fans of Olimpia Milano and me. They celebrate me, ask many questions and they’re happy to stay with me and explain to their sons who I am and what I did for Olimpia and that they fell in love with basketball watching me and my teammates play and win titles."
"Nobody can promise anybody to become a great player after a camp, but I think there are three important missions," Coach Peterson said. "First is a great life experience far from the family; second you get technical preparation; third the kids compete against different opponents, not the same they usually find during the season. Here at camp, they all have great experiences and always get a suggestion or a word after every drill."
"It’s a great experience for the kids" Premier continued. "First of all, they are free far from their family, even though there are rules to respect. They live together, have to respect each other and share time and experiences with guys coming from different countries and teams. That is something that can help you also in your daily life. In a week you cannot change your game, but if they treasure the suggestions coming from the great coaches and players there, they can take a different approach and mentality and work in a different way to improve in the following months."