Local kids learn fundamentals of basketball in a three-day camp
In the beginning, there was silence.
The children filed into the gymnasium at Crescent Elk Middle School on Wednesday morning, dropped off by their parents and wished goodbye. They filled their time by sitting around, talking with friends, waiting impatiently. Aidan Malone, 7, a rising second-grader at Pine Grove Elementary School, burned some energy by running laps around the gym. "I can run so much," he said.
Blaine Lopez, head coach of the Del Norte High School boys basketball team, produced two mesh bags filled with basketballs and encouraged the kids in the gym to have at them. Within minutes, the familiar cacophony of dribbling and shooting and passing reverberated off the gym walls.
The chaos had commenced.
Two weeks prior, Lopez and assistant coach Cris Rice (who is also the
Del Norte girls golf coach) green-lit the inaugural Junior Basketball
Camp, a three-day instructional clinic for kids about to enter grades 1
"I'm hoping, basically, to teach the basic fundamentals of
basketball," Lopez said. "(Rec league) coaches don't have very much
time. We're teaching basic dribbling and passing skills."
Thirty girls and boys as young as 5 and as old as 9 signed up, and many of sign-ups occurred Tuesday, the camp's first day.
"It's a great number (of kids)," Lopez said. "There are lots of opportunities for one-on-one (instruction)."
Each kid had plenty of room to work with as well. Middle-school and
rec league teams occupy area indoor courts most winter days and nights;
outdoor practices are difficult to schedule due to cold or inclement
weather. Lopez and Rice were using court space that would be otherwise
unoccupied in the summer.
In the first 15 minutes of the clinic, none of the campers touched a
ball. They ran lines, worked on their footwork and listened to Lopez and
Rice - sometimes - as the coaches worked on developing good habits.
"We're trying to stop them from doing the bad stuff they do, like
travel and double-dribble," said Rice, whose son, Aiden, participated in
the camp. "They let them get away with that (in rec league games)."
Much of the coaching done with young children goes beyond even the
fundamental and into the procedural. Where to stand, when to run, when
to walk, when to pass, when to shoot - what to do.
Basketball is a fluid game, with quick transitions between offense
and defense and a much smaller space to operate within compared to
football or baseball. At the most basic level of play, represented by
the basketball camp, it is sufficient and necessary to explain multiple
times what the lines of the court are.
"It's a little challenging sometimes," admitted Brice Lopez, a rising
junior at Del Norte High and Blaine Lopez's daughter. Brice and her
sister, Blaire, a recent Del Norte High graduate who will attend Lane
Community College in Eugene, Ore., in the fall, were conscripted as
volunteer assistant coaches and friendly faces to the girls in the camp.
The group's best skill? "Probably enthusiasm," Brice Lopez said. "They're funny."
How much do the 30 assembled campers enjoy basketball? It varies.
Malone, bedecked in an Angry Birds T-shirt, is not sure how much he
enjoys basketball but determined that his favorite part was "when I get
to block people or block their shots if they have the ball."
Nine-year-old Bella Stone, a rising fourth grader at Mary Peacock
Elementary, had been playing a few years before setting foot in the
Crescent Elk gym. Her experience shone through in the passes she made,
the shots she took and the way she responded to the coaches.
"I like it all," Stone said of basketball. "There's a lot of running
in it. I like shooting the best. A lot of people (I know) play ... it's
fun to do this."
Blaine Lopez, a roving physical education instructor with the Del
Norte County Unified School District, knows which buttons to push with
the kids that care about basketball and which to push with the kids
trying to figure out what it's all about.
"That's one of the things, even if they didn't play basketball
before, it's a good way to get exposure," Lopez says."Some are going to
love it and some aren't. They get to find out if they like it or not."
And as long as they have fun doing it, what does it matter?
Reach Robert Husseman at email@example.com.