Johnson County basketball coaches Austin Atwood and Todd Whittemore hosted yet another successful annual basketball camp last week. Open to boys and girls ages Kindergarten through ninth grade, campers were given a rare chance to work on everything from fundamentals to more complex techniques right alongside the same high school players they see performing night after night during the regular season.
Yet, as much as the younger kids learned from their week in the gym, both coaches pointed out that the experience was a positive one on the other side of the equation as well. Its really good for our high school kids to get the chance to interact with them, said Coach Atwood. Thats who these little kids look up to, these guys that they see on Friday nights playing. Its good for our guys to be able to interact and I think they learn as much or more than the little ones do. Weve had seven or eight guys showing up every day and doing a super job.
Campers were divided up into different age groups with each group having a different student coach. As Atwood pointed out, working with some of the younger kids was a challenge, but starting at such an early age also has a big impact. Brian Dempsey and Dalton Timbs stay with the younger kids, said Atwood. Those two guys did a super job with the little ones. They enjoyed it and the kids enjoyed it, but its a tiring week for the high school kids. Theyre ready to see Saturday get here. A lot of these kids know them and even when they were little they looked up to players like Austin Phipps. Most of the guys who are working for me were in the camp years ago.
Coach Whittemore was just as enthusiastic about having the Lady Longhorns work alongside some of the younger girls. Its good for our high school girls because now they understand that these young girls are looking up to them, Whittemore said. It isnt just about them playing next year. These young girls are coming to the games and they want to see their coach playing. These young girls, they listen to me, they work hard for me, but they work even harder when they know there is a varsity girls basketball player coaching them. Most of the girls in this camp have a dream to play varsity basketball for Johnson County High School someday and this is a great taste of it. They get to be out here and we let the coaches compete in some of the games with the kids, like the knockout.
Atwood worked with the boys in the high school gym, while Whittemore worked out of the middle school gym with the girls. Both camps focused on teaching the students things that they can use no matter what level of the sport they are in. As Atwood explained, We do a lot of fundamental stuff, with some of the older ones we do some things on the high school level, but with the younger ones we break it down to where they can all dribble. We make sure they can all dribble when they leave here; we make sure they can pass, put it in the triple threat. They play games like knockout, three on three, five on five, but we just try to teach the fundamentals of it.
Whittemore had similar goals for his camp, while also putting in his own twist. Ive been running my own camp now, this is my 20th year. Seventeen of those were with boys and this is my third with girls and Ive always done it this way. We do some stuff when its just with their grade levels, and then we get into NBA lines or NBA teams and that has one player from every age group on the team. Its a good way to get them into playing competitively with a group of all ages. If they play another team that team that has all ages it matches up well. Were trying to make it fun, were trying to teach them how to play the game right and thats going to make it better when they get into their games this fall.
Whittemore and Atwood also saw their respective camps as an opportunity to get a glimpse of future talent coming along and both seemed very happy with what they saw. This has been a good group, Atwood said. The kids that end up playing are the kids that have been to camp every year. Players like Chase Phillips have been involved from second grade on up. There are some coming along that are very talented. I see good things coming.
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