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At Home in Loyola Football Camp : High School's Weeklong Activity a Popular Tradition

September 12, 1985|LYNN SIMROSS | Times Staff Writer

Loyola High athletic director Jon Dawson wandered around the perimeter of the school gym last week surveying what the 55 varsity football players had brought for their weeklong camp.

There were only two things not allowed, Dawson said, "water beds and Playboy bunny posters."

So far, he hadn't found either.

Just then, though, he spied a framed poster of a nude woman taking a shower. It was an arty photograph that showed water running down the woman's back.

"Sorry, son," Dawson said to the owner. "That will have to go. This is a Christian school, a Catholic school. I wouldn't want Father Cahalan (the school president) to come in here and see that."

The boy protested briefly. "But it's a tasteful poster, coach," he said. "And my father gave it to me."

Dawson, who also is assistant football coach, allowed that the poster was tasteful, but it had to be sent home anyhow.

Teen-Agers' Trappings

The rest of the teen-agers' trappings could stay: mattresses and box springs, sofas, futons, chairs, nightstands, dressers, lamps, plants, stereos and television sets, rock, TV and movie star posters, Raiders and Rams pennants, an Olympic banner, flags from Italy, Ireland and Sweden.

"They each try to have a little bit of home away from home for the week," Dawson explained.

The boys arrived on Sunday to set up their living quarters, took Labor Day off and moved into camp from Tuesday through Saturday.

Loyola is one of a handful of Catholic high schools in the area that hold live-in football camps, patterned after those of professional football teams. So far, the idea does not seem to have caught on in the public schools.

"We started our Camp Week here in 1973," Dawson said. "I was with Marty Shaughnessy, the coach at St. Bernard's. He actually started camp week at St. Bernard's in 1969. When we (he and Shaughnessy, who is now in private business) came here, we brought it with us. Several other schools have them, but I think ours is the longest. Some have mini-camps. Some have camps, but don't stay overnight."

Dawson and head coach Steve Grady, who was known as "Grady the Great" when he was an outstanding tailback for Loyola from 1960 to '62, say the main reason for the school's live-in camp is logistics.

"Transportation is a difficult problem for the kids," Dawson said. "So we keep them here for that reason. Plus, it makes them better friends. Living together they get to know each other better.

In 10th Year as Coach

"We have kids from all over, from the Palisades to La Canada, Glendale, Palos Verdes, Whittier," said Grady, who is beginning his 10th year as head coach of Loyola's football Cubs.

Under Grady's tutelage, Loyola football teams have won 70 games, lost 25, tied four. They took five Del Rey League championships.

"If you want to compete with the best in high school football, you're going to have to work hard," Grady said. "They do work hard, and it's just better when they stay here after practicing all day, rather than driving all the way home."

So, for their camp, the players plan on bringing all the comforts from home. And more.

Once ensconced in their gym, the players' living setups were remarkably elaborate compared with those of the five coaches. The coaches had arranged five beds in a row at one end of the gym. None had even brought a lamp or a radio.

Senior Jeff Whittet, a wide receiver who also plays on the Loyola golf team, had installed a small portable putting green next to his bed so he could keep in golfing form when he wasn't practicing football.

Whittet is a member of what the boys call "the La Canada Connection," 12 players on the Loyola varsity who come from La Canada, home of Loyola's chief CIF Big 5 Conference rival, St. Francis.

"We get more original as time goes by," said senior Justin Gmelich, another teammate from La Canada. Gmelich, a defensive back who had attended camp week the year before, had brought a large floor fan in case the hot weather persisted. The next day, he added a large potted palm to his living quarters.

On the wall behind one bed was a sign that read: THIS IS AN ADULT POOL AREA. NO ONE UNDER AGE 16 PERMITTED. An official California Smog Inspection sign hung in one corner, not far from the Italian flag senior linebacker Steve Balsarini of Whittier had hung over his bed.

"This is my first year, but I brought everything," said Sean Doheny, a junior who will be a defensive back for the varsity this season. Doheny, who lives in Hancock Park, had a rug, hatrack, TV, lamp, radio, digital clock, as well as his bed and nightstand. "I've got to go get some Rambo posters, though," he said.

Perhaps the most unusual possession brought by a player was the bust of Julius Caesar that Julio Costanzo of Glendale had placed at the foot of his bed.

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