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Mankato Junior Camp: A Major Success
“I think this camp was a fantastic opportunity for the junior players to learn from a pro and coaching staff. Most of these juniors had never had coaching,” exclaimed Mike Wells, head coach and director of the Minnesota State Handball Team in Mankato. “The best part of the camp really was meeting these kids and their willingness to be coached…I want everybody to come back next year.”
The three-day intensive handball camp led by WPH Master Instructor and 7th ranked professional handball player Emmett Peixoto and Minnesota State Handball coaches Mike Wells and John Stoffel produced dramatic progress in each participant. “The video analysis tool we used shows the improvement over the two day period,” said Wells, attesting to the success of the camp.
Before instruction, video was taken of each camper executing certain shots. The image was then superimposed onto a video clip of Emmett executing those same shots. The footage was shown to the campers, presenting them with a visual model of elements worth targeting during instruction. “I liked watching the videos of myself. It really helped to see every stroke frame by frame,” said Kansas City native Max Langmack.
Instruction began with group lessons, which broke down the mechanics of each shot, thereby strengthening fundamentals. “The camp showed me how un-fundamentally sound I was. It worked on all aspects of the game, from serving to fist shots to ceiling shots,” noted camper Sam Esser, “bending my knees and shuffling my feet helped me get to the ball quicker and prepared me to hit the ball, which made it much easier to hit. It was great to work with a coach, let alone a pro.”
Drills, drill-based games, and group-games were given after each lesson, allowing the campers to implement what they learned in real-time play. “I liked how it wasn't serious the whole time...we'd work on a skill and then practice it in a game to keep it competitive but light,” said Tyler Stoffel, a senior at Mankato West Senior High School and a national handball champion several times over. “I also liked the one-on-one session a lot.”
On the second day, Emmett gave each camper one-on-one instruction, assessing and individualizing each lesson in order to isolate and improve elements in each camper’s game. “My goal was not to change each player’s unique style. I love to recognize the original aspects of each player’s swing,” explained Emmett Peixoto, “however, there are elements that every swing must have in order for a player to be consistent and less prone to injury. Education is an art form. The instructor must walk a fine line between uniqueness and structure, allowing the former to shine through by carefully molding it within the frame of the latter. Take for example Mankato camper, Alex Birge. Alex has an extremely powerful swing. However, he generates the bulk of his power from his arms, leaving his legs out of the equation. The purpose of my time with him was to enable his legs to take the pressure off of his arms and thereby generate even more power.” Alex, also a Kansas City native, confirmed this assessment, “My shoulder has been hurting for months. Emmett taught me the proper form to prevent further injury, using my legs not just my arms.”
The second day also included a much-anticipated serving clinic by number 6th ranked pro Andy Nett. The Minnesotan gave the campers, as well as the coaches, detailed tips regarding the power serve. “All I can show you is what I do and what tends to work for me,” said Andy, “if some of it works for you, great.” Nett’s tips certainly worked for Emmett, as he managed hit several of Nett’s famous crack aces in an exhibition match against Andy later that day. “Andy's serving clinic was really priceless for these kids,” said Wells graciously.
The second day concluded with pizza and laser tag. Although Emmett Peixoto and the campers put up quite a battle, they were no match for John Stoffel and Mike Wells’ red team led by Emmett’s girlfriend Jessica Raders. Along with helping emasculate the green team with lasers, Jessica also helped out with the camp, providing a vast collection of photos for each camper to take home with them. “Dinner and laser tag was a lot of fun,” said Alex Birge, “it was cool to hang out with Emmett and Jessica outside of the clinic. It was fun to get to know Emmett off the court.”
The third and final day involved a review session and a tournament. Along with the campers, several players from the Minnesota State Handball Team competed. Camper Sam Esser and coach Emmett Peixoto advanced to meet each other in the finals. Mike Wells provided a highly complex algorithm to handicap Emmett in order enable a heated match with his competitor. The algorithm churned and Sam took the tournament in a three game endurance test.
“I was really impressed with the interaction between Emmett and the kids. He did a good job relating to them and they are very coachable,” said an enthusiastic and thankful John Stoffel, “Mike did a great job organizing the camp and that really helped foster its success.” The WPH would like the thank Mike Wells and his wife Karen and sons Lucas and Zack, John Stoffel and his wife Kristy and son Nathan, Emmett Peixoto, Andy Nett, Jessica Raders, the Minnesota Handball Team, Brenda Flannery (the Dean of Business of Minnesota State), the Mankato handball community, and last but not least, the camp participants. The WPH hopes to be a part of next year’s handball camp.
__________________WPH Youth and Donor Development Director
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