It could be the Super Bowl of all father-and-son outings: Memorial Day weekend.
Multiple sports and activities spanning four days on the campus of BYU, an all-you-can-eat cafeteria, open access to current and former athletes and Cougar basketball staff and members of the athletic department (yes, Jimmer Fredette was there), and opportunities to listen to general authorities of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints and other prominent figures. It’s all done in the name of ultimate father-and-son bonding.
For 13 years now, the BYU basketball staff and athletic department have hosted a camp for fathers and sons over Memorial Day weekend. It began in 1998 with then-basketball coach Steve Cleveland and 150 campers.
Over the past decade, capacity has increased as the word has spread.
In recent years, the camp sold out within hours. This past weekend, May 27-30, BYU hosted its largest group ever — 850 participants from across the country. Brian Santiago, BYU senior associate athletics director, said the athletic department is working to find a way for more to come.
“There is a big waiting list every year, but we can only accommodate so many,” Santiago said. “It’s really a fun weekend for fathers to spend time with their sons, mix a little bit of sport with spiritual activities, and give them a great weekend they will always remember.”
BYU coach Dave Rose agreed.
“It’s a wonderful opportunity to watch the dads spend time and interact with their boys,” Rose said. “It’s pretty special to spend that much quality time together.”
Fathers and sons camped out in the dorms and spent most of the weekend doing physical activities. They played 3-on-3 and competed in various basketball drills. They engaged in games of flag football, soccer, kickball and other team sports. When it came time for a break, campers attended “Cougar Talk” with Greg Wrubell, the voice of the Cougars. Wrubell later tweeted the experience was “very rewarding.”
“I’ve had a blast spending time with the fathers and sons. Coach Rose and his guys put on a great weekend!” the BYU broadcaster said via Twitter.
One highlight of the camp was the appearance of Fredette and his father, Al. Despite a busy NBA workout schedule and preparing for the draft, Jimmer and his father wanted to talk to campers about the special relationship a son can have with his father.
“Jimmer wants to be a great basketball player, but basketball is not everything to him,” Santiago said. “Being a good person is more important than being a great basketball player. That is impressive. That is what we are trying to instill in these young men. We want the kids who come on campus to have those kinds of role models, players in our program who are great young men, the full package … great people who set an example.”
Troy Wallin, an attorney from Gilbert, Ariz., attended the camp with his three sons. When Jimmer walked out at the end and thanked his dad for everything he taught him, Wallin was moved.
“As much success as Jimmer has had as a basketball player, I was struck by the obvious sense of pride of a father towards a son for the upstanding character he has developed,” Wallin said. “As a father of three boys, that is my greatest desire for them as well.”
All 850 participants loaded on buses Sunday morning and traveled to Temple Square in Salt Lake City to experience “Music and the Spoken Word,” followed by sacrament services in the Assembly Hall. During the service, Rose and BYU President Cecil O. Samuelson spoke to the large group.
In his remarks, Rose recalled his experience with pancreatic cancer and some of the lessons he learned about kindness and gratitude.
Sunday evening, the campers were treated to a fireside with Tom Holmoe, BYU’s director of athletics.
Matt Hansen of Fremont, Calif., attended the camp with his two sons, and all three were uplifted by the messages they heard.
“From the touching and intimate details Coach Rose shared with us in his sacrament talk, and the inspiring talk from Brother Holmoe during the evening fireside, my boys and I committed ourselves to look for more ways to be kind,” Hansen said.
The weekend concluded Monday with memorable remarks by Chad Lewis, former BYU football player and NFL Pro Bowl selection. Lewis just returned from climbing Mt. Kilimanjaro with four Iraqi war veterans in connection with the Wounded Warrior project. It was very appropriate for Memorial Day, Santiago said.
New BYU assistant basketball coach Mark Pope also shared some words with campers.
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The event will be held once again in 2012. Tuition for the camp, which includes campus housing, was $365 per person this year. South Jordan resident Scott Driggs and his two sons, Ammon and Tyson, can’t wait to be there.
“The camp is a highlight for me and something my sons look forward to more than any other trip each year,” Driggs said. “We are able to spend quality time together in a super-charged environment that is tailor-made for fathers and sons.”
For more information regarding BYU camps, visit www.byucougars.com/SportsCamps/.