Top 20 Traditions
In the summer of 2017, we decided to count down the 20 days to the start of summer camp by releasing a list of the Top 20 Traditions one experiences while attending Excel Camp. Excel was established in 1981, so there have been many great traditions established over the years that make Excel such a great basketball Camp.
#20 – THE JUICE
Since day one of camp in 1981, Excel has been mixing its own special blend of juice to serve to campers at lunchtime and keep them hydrated. While the secret recipe has been altered a few times over the years, and the taste can vary slightly from week to week depending upon which camp counselor made it, one thing is for sure…Excel Campers definitely look forward to grabbing a cup of Excel’s custom made juice at lunchtime each day.
You can usually tell that lunch time is over when you see campers working together in true team fashion to tilt the juice containers forward so they can get every last drop of the juice out of the barrel before heading back to camp.
#19 – THE PISTOL PENTATHLON
The Pistol Pentathlon is a series of five of drills from Excel’s Pistol Series (named after the legendary “Pistol” Pete Maravich). Each week, the campers spend 20 minutes a day at the Pistol Series working on a number of ball handling drills. At the end of the week, each camper gets to compete in the Pistol Pentathlon which requires they complete a test that includes five drills from the Pistol Series. Any camper who can successfully complete the Pentathlon, gets permanently etched into the Excel Hall of Fame.
To complete the Pistol Pentathlon, one must complete the drills below and are allowed just one mistake.
- Bounce-Toss-Catch – 10 consecutive reps
Description: Bounce ball between your legs, catch it behind your back, toss it up your back and catch it again behind your head)
- Spin the Ball – Spin the ball on your finger for 10 seconds
- Over the Head through the Legs – 10 consecutive reps
Description: hold the ball over your head, throw it through the backside of your legs and catch it in front of you.
- The Allocco-Sullivan – 2 consecutive reps
Description: Bounce the ball through the front of your legs and catch it behind your head.
- Toss & Catch Behind and Between – 2 consecutive reps
Description: Toss the ball in the air and catch it behind your back AND in-between your legs.
The Pistol Pentathlon is one of the more recently established traditions at Excel. While the drills have all been included in the daily teachings since the camp’s start in 1981, the Pentathlon competition did not begin until 2007. It took nearly four years before a camper was able to complete the Pistol Pentathlon. Then, just like with the four minute mile, everyone realized it could be done and other winners followed, including a second just 30 minutes after the first!
To date, only 14 Campers have been able to complete the Pistol Pentathlon…which is why it remains one of Excel’s great traditions!
#18 – EXCEL AWARDS/HALL OF FAME
Since the inception of camp in 1981, the coaches meet on Friday to vote on a number of player awards, recognizing those campers who stood-out during the week. The winners of these awards reserve a permanent spot in the Excel Hall of Fame, which tracks every award winner dating back to 1981 and can be found on the Excel website.
The complete list of awards includes:
- Stu Aberdeen Outstanding Player Award
Awarded to the best player in each division. Named in honor of to Coach Stu Aberdeen, deceased Head Basketball Coach from Marshall University. Coach Aberdeen was an amazing motivator and mentor for Coach Allocco. After Coach Aberdeen passed away, Coach Allocco decided to carry on Stu’s tradition of teaching, and established Excel Basketball Camp as the vehicle to do so.
- Dr. John Stein Best Defensive Player Award
Awarded to the best defensive player in each division. Named in honor of Dr. John Stein, who was a camp coach since the earliest days of Excel. Dr. Stein was known for always sitting in the front row and listening to every word taught at Excel. He became a world-renown oncologist and often credited Excel with being the foundation of his unparalleled work ethic.
- Cindy Lowe Most Inspirational Player Award
Awarded to the most inspirational player in each division. Named in honor of former camper Cindy Lowe, a 1986 winner award. Diagnosed with cancer in her early 20’s, Cindy refused to let her illness deter her from being a great daughter, sister, aunt, and friend. As a past winner of the award and due to her inspirational attitude throughout her battle with cancer, Coach Allocco named the award in her honor, noting that she exemplified one who serves as an inspiration to others.
- Most Improved Player Award
This award goes to the most improved player in each division.
- Champion Awards
This award goes to the camper in each division who won a championship in: One-on One, Free Throw Competition, 3 Point Competition
- Other Awards
Station Master: Awarded to a camper who masters the skills taught in daily stations
Pistol Pentathalon: Awarded to any camper who can complete a series of 5 drills
#17 – STATIONS
The first activity that campers participate in each day is a series of Stations. Each station focuses on a specific skill, and progresses in difficulty as the week goes on. Stations include:
- Shooting (B.L.E.S.H.)
- Post Moves
- Offensive Moves
- 3 on 3
- Speed & Agility
Each morning campers spend 10-15 minutes at each station, learning the fundamentals of each skill and then advancing on those as the week goes. The shooting station includes a video evaluation of each camper’s shot technique.
Stations are a great place for campers to improve their individual skills!
#16 – THE SPIDER
Another drill that has existed since Excel’s inception in 1981 is the Spider!. The Spider drill is taught as part of our ball handling series each day at camp. The drill requires that you drop the ball between your legs, then dribble it once with each hand then reach back behind your knees and again dribble it again, once with each hand. You simply continue in this pattern, picking up the pace as you go. When you get fast enough you begin to look like a spider…hence the name of the drill.
Each Friday, each camp division votes on the Camp’s fastest Spider, and that person receives an award and gets to perform the the drill in front of the entire camp and the parent audience at the Friday Awards Ceremony.
It is said that Gregg Allocco who attended camp in the 80’s and still serves as a Camp Coach and Co-Director of the New Jersey Camp Sessions was and remains the fastest Spider of all-time.
In recent years, we have given campers the option to add a few style points to the drill with the “Kick-Start” and by “Walking the Spider”.
For the Kick-Start, instead of starting by dropping the ball, you place it on the ground and clamped between your feet. You then use your feet to lift the ball by jumping off the ground and kicking the ball into the air…as soon as the ball lands, you continue as normal.
Walking the Spider is done when the participant gets good enough to advance past doing the drill in a stationary position. Once they get going and in rhythm, they will also walk around the court as they do the drill, adding another degree of difficulty to it.
#15 – THE EXCEL NAME TAG
Checking into camp on Monday is always an exciting experience. Campers generally can’t wait to hustle into the gym and locate their name tag. Why, you ask? Well, their name tag tells them who they will be grouped with for the remainder of the week.
Simply by looking at a name tag, a camper can determine the following:
- What Team they are on
- What Station Group they are in
- What One-on-One group they are in
Once a camper gets a hold of their name tag, you will quickly see them huddle up, to find out who else got the same assignments. Then, you will see them run from coach to coach to determine who the coach of their team will be.
This is always a fun part of camp…as campers quickly form friendships with their teammates and station/one-on-one partners. Many of these friendships, which are developed for the first time at Camp…become life-long bonds. We can’t tell you the number of stories we receive about kids who met for the first time at Excel Camp and are are now best friends as adults.
In addition to being fun for the kids, the name tag is a tool that keeps Excel Camp running efficiently…which is something we pride ourselves in. We squeeze a lot of teaching into each day…and our name tag system is a big reason we are able to do so!
#14 – THE GAMES
Let’s be honest… every camper loves a 5 on 5 game and games provide players with an opportunity to test out all the individual skills they are being taught. We estimate that since Excel Camp started in 1981, we have hosted just over 1000 camp 1 on 1 games!
Each session, every camper is assigned to a team and will play two games per day with that team for a total of 10 games in the week. On Thursday, playoffs begin and the teams play for a chance to compete for the division championship on Friday afternoon.
In addition to the obvious reasons kids love playing in games, they also provide a chance for the campers to form bonds with their teammates and coaches, working together to achieve a goal….having a lot of fun in the process.
Regardless of if your team wins a championship, or just has a lot of fun competing throughout the week…playing in the camp 5 v 5 games is always a fun part of camp!
Historical Fun Fact: Up through the late 90’s, campers who hung around long enough after camp could catch the “Coaches Game”…where all the best camp coaches played 5 v 5 after camp. Rumor has it, these were some of the most competitive games around!
#13 – 3 POINT CONTEST
Every Friday, each camper gets a chance to compete against their peers for a chance to win the Excel 3-Point Contest.
As with everything we do here at Excel… this is about being able to compete under pressure. You only get one shot. If you make it, you advance to the next round. If you don’t, you are out. This continues for as many rounds as needed until there is just one player left standing (in each age division) as the Champion!
#12 – B.L.E.S.H. SHOOTING LECTURE
Every week on Monday campers are taught Coach Allocco’s patented shooting formula. His B.L.E.S.H shooting technique has become one of the best known parts of Excel camp, as campers never forget it. Last year the acronym even made its way onto a KNBR sports broadcast, as the show’s host was a former camper and used B.L.E.S.H as an example when referring to an NBA player’s perfect shooting form.
If you have been to camp… you can likely rattle this off with no problem:
Each letter serves as a talking point and reminder of part of the mechanics of your shot. If you can perfect the B.L.E.S.H shooting technique, you are one step closer to becoming a great shooter!
#11 – SHOT EVALUATION
The Shot Evaluation is an extension of No. 12 (Shooting Lecture) and No. 17 (Stations).
Each week as part of Stations, each camper has their shot filmed in the Shooting Station. Later in the week, Coach Frank Allocco, Jr. sits down with each camper and reviews/evaluates the film of their shot with them. Shots are evaluated at both live speed and in slow motion, allowing Coach Allocco to provide detailed feedback…both verbally and via a written evaluation that campers can take home with them. The goal is to get campers to perfect Excel’s B.L.E.S.H. shooting technique.
The Shot Evaluation is one of Excel’s greatest teaching tools. It provides campers with everything they need to develop a picture-perfect shot!
#10 – ONE – ON – ONE
Playing 1-on-1 is a great way to work on your game and learn to compete. You have nobody to turn to but yourself!
This is why we play 1-on-1 every day at Excel. Campers are grouped into 1-on-1 divisions by age and ability. Each day they compete against others in their group, collecting as many wins as they can throughout the week. On Friday, each division’s players are seeded and play a single elimination tournament leading to one champion per division.
Excel requires players to play by special rules that force them to use skill to win games instead of relying on size. Those rules include:
- Checking the ball up after every rebound
- Limited Dribbles (3 or 5 depending on age level)
- Winner’s Outs
Any player who goes undefeated for the entire week and plays everyone in their division has to lose twice on Friday to be eliminated.
The Champion of each division receives an award and also goes into the Excel Hall of Fame!
Winning an Excel 1-on-1 Championship is certainly an award to be coveted!
#9 – DRIBBLE AND PISTOL SERIES
Camp is a place to work on your skills and become a better player. Excel’s Pistol and Dribble series break downs are are great place for campers to do just that.
Each day campers spend 15 minutes of their morning at the Pistol Series where they are led through a number of different ball handling drills designed to increase hand eye coordination, hand speed, dexterity with the ball, and more. This series was named after the NBA legend, “Pistol” Pete Maravich, one of the NBA’s all-time great ball handlers. Many of these drills came from the Pistol’s daily workout routine. At the end of the week campers take what they have learned and compete to see who can complete the famed “Pistol Pentathalon” (see No. 19 on the list for more info).
In the afternoon campers participate in Excel’s Dribble Series. Here they are led through a number of different dribbling drills, including the all-time favorite “Spider” drill (see No. 16 on this list for more info).
It is clear that we truly believe in the importance of these drills in skill development, as we always assign our best coaches to run them. In the 80’s they were led by Frank Allocco Sr and Todd Lichti. In the 1990’s the torch was passed to Brian Sullivan. Then, in the early 2000’s Frank Allocco Jr. took over.
Todd Lichti arguably the most successful player to come out of Excel Camp was known for seizing every opportunity to become a better player. An NBA player for many years, Todd always made sure he was assigned to work the Pistol and Dribble series when he came back to work camp, as it gave him a chance to work on his game while leading the group. It was said that as an instructor, he still managed to out-work every camper, forcing himself to do every drill he put them through…and to do it full speed!
Years later when discussing why he was so successful and how he motivated himself to work so hard, he stated, “Hard work was the easy part”. This is a great lesson for all of us…we all have the ability to work hard…and 30 minutes of hard work at the Pistol and Dribble series each day will surely pay off!
#8…FREE THROW COMPETITIONS
Free Throws are often the deciding factor in who wins or loses big games. It’s tough to replicate the atmosphere of making pressure free throws, but we do our best with our weekly free throw competition. The idea is to give campers practice shooting free throws, while also adding in a little pressure to test the nerves.
Each day every camper shoots 10 free throws. The results are tracked and recorded at on the Excel Free Throw Board, which is posted at camp. Each Camper shoots 40 free throws for the week, then on Friday the player with the top score from each age group is either donned the champion or, in the event of a tie, placed in a shoot-off in front of the entire camp. Talk about pressure!
Winning an Excel Free Throw Championship is quite an honor as winners cement their spot in the Excel Hall of Fame.
Campers are also challenged to become one of the very few to make 40-out-of-40 for the week. Since 1981 this achievement has eluded all but two campers.
“Biz Penovich went 40-40 at the age of 16 back in 1986. It took nearly 20 years before anyone else accomplished the task… but in 2005, 14 year old Kristen Scott also joined the 40-40 club!
See a listing of all the best scores in our Excel Hall of Fame
#7 – CAMP T-SHIRTS
Each week, every camper receives an Excel camp t-shirt. The design of these shirts changes each summer. Seeing that we are now in our 37th year of camp, there are 37 different camp t-shirts out there… somewhere!
Campers look forward to seeing what the new design will be each summer and to receiving their shirt each week of camp. Since many players attend multiple weeks of camp, we do keep an inventory of older shirt designs on hand for repeat campers to choose from (instead of receiving a second shirt of the current year’s design).
We have saved pictures and logos from as many of these shirts as possible, but unfortunately, some are missing from the early years.
Take a trip down memory lane and see some of the old designs, you can visit our online shirt archive here.
Fun fact… in the 80’s the Coaches all received matching polo shirt and short combinations with different logos as well. Some of those are featured at the above archive as well.
Just another of many great Traditions started by our Founder, Frank Allocco, Sr nearly 40 years ago!
If you have designs that aren’t featured in the archive, please send us pictures…we would love to see them and add them to the collection!
#6 – REPORT CARDS
What would a week of camp be without feedback?!
Each week, every camper receives a hand written report card from their team coach. The report card evaluates a number of different skills, notes their free throw percentage (from the Excel Free Throw Competition), and also includes a “Coach’s Comments” section. Here, the player will get a personal note from their coach summarizing their play, their strengths/weaknesses and with some words of encouragement/advice.
Since 1981, these report cards have served as a great evaluation tool for campers. Along with their report cards, campers also receive a very detailed shooting evaluation (which breaks down every phase of their shot) and a shooting workout chart.
We still get emails every summer from campers who have Excel report cards pinned to the walls of their lockers and offices, serving as a fond memory of the great time they had while at Excel Camp!
#5 – AWARD CEREMONY/COACH ALLOCCO SPEECH
Nobody wants camp to end, but if it must, ending with an Awards Ceremony and a motivational message from Coach Frank Allocco, Sr. is the way to go!
Every Friday we use the last 30 minutes of camp to host an awards session where we hand out all of the awards that have been earned throughout camp (see No. 18 on the Top 20 list). Those receiving awards are inducted into the Excel Hall of Fame, where their name will be etched in stone along side fellow awards winners, dating back to 1981.
These awards are distributed in front of the entire camp and an audience of family and friends who have come to celebrate each player’s accomplishments and improvements.
The awards ceremony is also where players huddle with their camp team and coach one last time, receiving their report card, shooting evaluation, shooting workout and motivational quote card.
After all the awards have been handed out, the players and audience get to enjoy a keynote speech from Coach Frank Allocco, Sr. The subject of these speeches changes from week to week, but always carrys an important life lesson.
Coach Allocco is a world-renowned pubic speaker, so his message never fails to impress and motivate those in attendance. His desire to use this opportunity as one last chance to bestow some of his knowledge upon the campers fits in lock-step with his mission of Excel…to change the world…one player at a time.
Former campers and parents often stop by camp on Friday just to hear Coach Allocco’s message for the week!
#4 – CAMP LECTURES
Each day of camp features both a morning and afternoon lecture, providing campers with a total of 10 lecture sessions per week. While many of these lectures focus on specific skills like shooting, rebounding, defense, offensive movement, etc…the staff also incorporates life lessons into the lectures through their fun and anecdotal stories.
Often times, even the skill based lectures include real life situations that are solved thanks to a basketball skill! Anyone who has been to camp can quickly name a few of their favorite lecture topics.
There is Coach Allocco’s Tiburon (Shark) story in which he was almost attacked by a shark because someone failed to effectively communicate, as well as his his defensive lecture when he talks relives the time when he ate an entire meal at a restaurant while in a defensive stance because he was dedicated to having the best stance. Coach Sullivan is known for many great lectures including his famous, “Not in My House” post defense lecture and is also known for teaching about the “friendship stance” which is better known as help-side defense. There is also the Yankee Stadium story…when Coach Sullivan prevented Coach Allocco from catching an A-Rod foul ball…because he jumped into a perfect denial defensive stance as the ball came and knocked the ball away.
The bottom line is, in any given week of camp, you will walk away having learned some valuable lessons, most important of which is that camp isn’t just about basketball…its about creating great habits that will serve you will throughout your life!
#3 – CHAMPIONSHIP FRIDAY
The name pretty much says it all! What could be more fun than Championship Friday?! Each day of camp is a stepping stone that leads to the culmination of a week of hard work in Championship Friday.
On Fridays at Excel, we host the following championships:
- Team Champions Teams play two games per day throughout the week. Playoffs begin on Thursday, and on Friday the best two teams in each division square off in a winner takes all championship game!
Campers play multiple 1-on-1 games throughout the week. On Friday morning, they compete in a single elimination 1-on-1 tournament, with the winner being crowned the champion for their respective age division.
- 3-Point Championship
On Friday, every player in camp gets to participate in our “last player standing” 3 point competition.
- Pistol Pentathalon
Complete a series of our toughest ball handling drills from the Pistol Series…and you will join the elite list of Pistol Pentathalon winners.
- League Awards
At the Friday awards ceremony, we name the winners of our league awards, including the Stu Aberdeen Outstanding Player Award, Dr. John Stein Best Defensive Player Award, Cindy Lowe Most Inspirational Player Award, and Most Improved award. These award winners are all announced and recognized in front of the entire camp as the awards ceremony.
Campers love Championship Fridays. From the moment the day starts, there is a different vibe in the air as campers look to bring their best game and also to bring out the best in their teammates in hopes of bringing home the brass!
Of course, at camp it is all about the journey. Camp is about competing and making strides in your individual skills and game. As long as you have worked hard to make that happen, you can hold your head high on Championship Friday.
#2 – CREATING FRIENDSHIPS
Excel Camp is fun…there are no “ifs”, “ands” or “buts” about it! And regardless of if you are attending camp with a group of friends, or coming for the first time and don’t know anyone, one thing is for sure – you are going to make new friends at camp and we would be willing to bet, some of these friendships will last for years to come!
Campers experience many different activities throughout a week of Excel and get to share in each of these experiences with fellow campers. That may include celebrating a win, being motivated by a loss, sharing a favorite lunch spot, working though a new skill together, or even competing against one and other.
With each new interaction, a bond begins to form and lasting friendships are created.
One of the things we are most proud of here at Excel is the number of campers who come back years after camp and tell us they are still best friends with people that they met while attending camp. It has always been a goal of ours to foster that type of camp environment and we couldn’t be happier that we are succeeding!
Here’s to all the great friendships that have been formed at Excel in the past 37 years!
#1 – THE BIG 3 BRIAN, FRANK, & FRANK
Everything Excel provides was created thanks to the three men who have been involved with Excel since its founding days. Not only are they best friends, but they share a passion for the game of basketball and for passing their knowledge on to others. These three men, who have never missed a week of Excel in 37 years, are Frank Allocco Sr., Brian Sullivan, and Frank Allocco, Jr.
Frank Allocco Sr. founded Excel in 1981 based on a need to share his passion for the game and for life with others, just as so many great coaches had done for him. He wanted to use the game of basketball to help make a difference, hence Excel’s mission to “Change the World, One Player at a Time”. In the 37 years since founding Excel, he has helped shape thousands of lives and has encouraged those whom he mentored to do the same, thus paying it forward and multiplying the reach of his efforts exponentially. A prime example of this, is his best friend Brian Sullivan.
Brian grew up just a few houses down the street from Coach Allocco. Coach Allocco noticed his passion for the game and immediately took Brian under his wing. When camp began in 1981, Brian attended and became Excel’s first ever MVP. Brian attended every session of camp for the remainder of his High School career. After receiving a scholarship to attend Eastern Washington University, Brian returned to California every summer to work Excel. After finishing his college career, Brian joined Excel as a the Camp Director, leading camp each week ever since. Just like his mentor, Coach Allocco, Brian brings not just knowledge but a passion for teaching with him to camp every day…and 37 generations of Excel Campers are better players and people because if it.
Frank Allocco Jr. grew up watching both his dad and Brian playing and coaching. While he was a bit too young to officially attend camp when it first began (he was just three), that didn’t stop him from tagging along with his dad to every session and getting a little work in whenever he could. Frank Jr. could normally be found out working with his Dad or Brian at the Pistol and Dribble Series, practicing the drills with all of the older kids. This continued until, at the Age of 7, Frank became the youngest camper ever to officially attend Excel camp. From that point on, Frank would attend every week of camp (normally playing up at least one age division), both in California and New Jersey until he graduated High School in 1996. Just as Coach Sullivan had before him, Frank would return each summer from Saint Mary’s College to coach at Excel. Upon graduating from Saint Mary’s, Frank would again follow in Brian’s footsteps, taking on a full time role with Excel. Frank too puts everything into Excel Camp, his way of giving back to a camp that he credits for making him into the player he became: a player that many would describe as one of the greatest competitors they ever saw.
It is fitting that Coach Allocco, who set out to honor those who had given to him, inspired simply through his own actions, those closest to him to follow in his footsteps. Thanks to his inspiring ways, Excel Campers have and will continue to be the beneficiaries of one of the most driven and passionate coaching staffs in the country…a staff dedicated to providing each and every camper with an opportunity to be the greatest player and person they are capable of becoming.
We are fortunate to have each of these great mentors working with Excel Campers each summer. We know that with them at the helm, Excel is helping to Change the World, One Player at a Time thanks to their passionate contributions to the game and to our community.