Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Rise And Shine Campers

Anyone familiar with the 80's pop/rock band The Outfield?  Does their hit album "Play Deep", which included Billboard hits "Your Love", "All The Love" and "Every Time You Go" mean anything to you?  For those of you that know me you would assume that this group (and this style of music) does nothing for me (since this is not the genre' of music that I prefer).  And in most cases you would be right, but in this case every time I hear The Outfield it brings back one of the best memories from my teenage years . . . Basketball Camp at Culver Stockton College in Canton, MO.  The first basketball camp I attended was at Culver Stockton College and not only was this my first basketball camp it was one of the first times being away from home on my own.  Each morning at camp, over 300 boys would line up at 8:00am, in "roll call" lines, and the "star basketball" players for Culver Stockton College would lead us in our stretching routine . . . while The Outfield "rocked" through the speakers . . . "Josie's on a vacation far away, come around and talk it over . . . so many things that I wanna say, you know I like my girls a little bit older".  And even today when I hear this group on the radio (okay, when I go to the 80's station on XM) it brings back memories of my first basketball camp.  Next week we will be hosting the girls basketball camps here at Arkansas State and as we prepare for it numerous camp memories come to mind. 

I remember being scared to death at my first camp (at Culver Stockton) and it didn't help matters that during the first session of playing 3 on 3 I had the ball and turned down a wide open 12 foot jump shot instead passing the ball to a guarded post player under the goal.  Before the post could even shoot the ball the infamous Coach Strausburg (infamous, because all the returning campers had warned the "rookies" about how mean he was) was in my face screaming at the top of his lungs "BOYER . . . IF YOU DON'T SHOOT THE BALL I'M GOIN' BE ON YOU LIKE A COON ON A ROAST'N EAR!!!"  I didn't stop shaking the remainder of camp and . . . I didn't pass up a wide open jump shot . . . and to this day I'm scared of raccoons. 

I've known I wanted to coach basketball since I was a child so when I got to college it just seemed natural to use summer basketball camps as a means of employment.  I dedicated the summer after my sophomore year of college to work as many camps as possible.  The first camp to give me a chance was at Kansas State University and the legendary Head Coach Lon Kruger (current men's basketball coach at University of Oklahoma).  19 years old, coaching at my first camp and I was put in charge of the kindergarten boys.  My first thought was this is going to be a piece of cake but right before our first session Lon Kruger tapped me on the shoulder and pointed to his son . . . who just happen to be in kindergarten and already had the basketball IQ of a college athlete.  Apparently I didn't let Coach Kruger down because this camp lead to many others including working the Moe Iba basketball camps at TCU.  This is where I really started to get the hang of working / directing camps as I followed the leadership of TCU assistant men's basketball camp Kevin Fricke.  Fricke was the master at directing camps in that he would direct 4 or 5 camps a summer with 200 - 300 boys each and by the end of the first day of each camp he seemed to know the first name of every camper.  He was in total control of each camp as he'd stick out a hand to camper after camper saying "put it their partner".  And the campers never seemed to catch on that the last night of each camp, year after year the camp was "5 pizzas away from setting the all-time TCU camp pizza orders record (and yes I'm guessing there was a kickback from the pizza orders). 

My big camp break came two summers later when I was given the opportunity to help direct camps at Missouri Western (where I was working as a student-assistant coach on the men's basketball team).  We hosted several camps at MO West and helping direct the camps was a great experience.  Our men's head coach, Tom Smith (who is now in the Missouri State Hall of Fame) was very direct in the way he wanted things run.  Late in the day he'd walk by one of the benches and notice a chair moved out of position and he would say "a good camp Coach Boyer is a camp with straight chairs . . . that's the sign of a good camp" or he'd ask at the end of the day if all 70 basketballs had been accounted for (over an area of 6 courts) and he'd say "a good camp Coach Boyer is a camp that doesn't lose any basketballs . . . that's the sign of a good camp".  Late that summer we hosted an all-star camp where we invited the best 8th grade boys from an eight state region (this was the top camp of the summer).  The night before camp I came up with this great idea, something that had never been done before, at this camp.  I stayed up the entire night creating a huge map, with stars that identified the hometowns of each of the nearly 200 campers in attendance.  The map covered the entire back wall of the room in which we would be registering in the next morning.  I was so proud of what I'd accomplished and couldn't wait for Coach Smith to come in the next morning for registration.  Sure enough, minutes before registration Coach walked into the room, looked up at the map and a small smile came across his face.  He didn't say a word and honestly I didn't need him to say a word, the smile meant I'd done something special.  The smile was enough to know that "a good wall map at registration was the sign of a good camp Coach Boyer . . . that's the sign of a good camp".

Monday will be my 23rd year of working (in some capacity) summer basketball camps.  Some of the best memories of my coaching career and of my teenage years revolve around summer camps.  I can only hope that several years down the road the girls who attend our basketball camp next week will look back with great memories of their basketball camp experience here at Arkansas State. 

Oh, and in case you're wondering . . . Monday morning, first thing before I get to the Convocation Center for camp . . . I'll be jamming to The Outfield on my Ipod . . . "I just wanna use your love tonight, oh I don't wanna lose your love tonight" . . .

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