The end of the 2013-14 school year marks the beginning of athletic camp season at high schools across the region

by: PHIL HAWKINS - Members of the Gervais basketball camp line up in preparation for dribbling drills.A shrill whistle cuts through the cacophony of 50 bouncing basketballs echoing off walls of the Gervais High School gymnasium.

“Freeze!” yells Gervais assistant girls basketball coach Kyle Buse. “Triple threat!”

Every child in the gym grabs their ball with both hands and instinctively cocks it to the side of their hip while widening their legs into a semi-crouched stance.

Buse stresses the importance of the dribbling drill that each child was doing at the Cougar Hoop Camp while members of the girls varsity basketball team walk around and between lines of athletes, trying to poke away their basketballs.

“Remember, if someone pokes your ball loose, you owe me three pushups,” Buse says to remind his campers.

Several campers lose control of their ball and drop to the ground to pay for their mistake, but most are able to fend off their opponents while still listening to the coach.

Ten miles north on Boones Ferry Road, a similar scene is playing out at the North Marion High School gymnasium.

It’s summer, and that means it’s time for athletic camps across the region. North Marion and Gervais high schools kicked off the season last week with their respective basketball camps.

Woodburn and Kennedy high schools were scheduled to open this week, teaching scores of children from elementary school through middle school the fundamentals of basketball, tennis and many more sports offered at the high schools.

North Marion assistant girls coach Kelsey Kahle has been teaching camps for a decade and like most coaches, she focuses on teaching basic skills like dribbling, ball-control, shooting and passing.

“A lot of this camp, because it has such a big spectrum of ages, works on a lot of fundamentals, individual skill development and starts building both offensive skills and defensive skills,” Kahle said.

Like most camps, North Marion runs its drills where everyone lines up in rows and columns to practice basic drills, as Kahle tries to teach her students how to control their bodies on the court.

But Kahle is not lost on the fact that her players are all much younger than the high school athletes she typically coaches during the winter season.

In between drills, Kahle breaks the groups down to play games that lighten the atmosphere but still keep everyone competing and having fun.

“Everybody needs a little something to break up the learning,” Kahle said. “You have to intersperse a couple mental reprieves and physical breaks, different games and such so they’re rejuvenated to learn the next step.”

Her goal is twofold. She keeps the camp fun so kids are enthusiastic and are having a good time.

by: PHIL HAWKINS - North Marion assistant girls basketball coach Kelsey Kahle coaches and encourages one of dozens of participants at the Huskies girls basketball camp last week.“Motivation is huge,” she said. “Kids who come and aren’t motivated and don’t want to be there, they don’t want to come the next day.”

However, each game utilizes a basic skill that was taught at camp.

Take “line tag” for example. It’s your basic schoolyard game of tag, but each participant is only allows to run on the various basketball and volleyball lines that crisscross the court.

Kahle starts a game of line tag to warm up the girls for the final day of camp Thursday morning, knowing they had previously worked on angle cuts and speed cuts on Wednesday.

“They’re practicing their cuts, but they’re doing it in a fun way,” she said. “They can use it in the form of a game and they can say, ‘Oh, OK. I see the applicability.’ Or maybe they’re trying it and they’re not even having to think about it. They’re just practicing what we worked on at the preceding drill.”

At Gervais, Buse and his staff of high school volunteers weave individual parts of each drill into new, more complex drills, building on what was learned the first and second days into the final days of camp.

Each athlete learns basketball moves like the triple threat position, jump stops, pivoting and rip maneuvers, like individual music chords.

As camp progresses, the drills become more complex and work several skills together. The music chords start to resemble a song.

By the end of the week, the various basketball maneuvers — which were somewhat jerky and awkwardly executed at first — become more fluid with each passing day.

While each camp is slightly different, they all have the same basic goals. Coaches want players to come away with a better understanding of the game, both in its moves and its terminology.

“Teaching the terminology and the language is huge,” Kahle said. “There’s a big assumption that a lot of coaches have, that their athletes have all heard the same terminology. That’s a fallacy.”

They also seek to get campers excited about the game and teach them the skills to practice it throughout the summer, Kahle said.

“I like to make it more of an individual skill basis at camp,” Kahle said. “It’s not very often where they’re going to have five girls trying to run a practice. You try to give them a couple of drills, whether it’s a shooting drill or a ball-handling drill, where they can almost design their own workout plan when they’re gone.”

In the long term, coaches look to build stability within each program so that athletes at the elementary and middle school level can make an easier transition to the higher levels of competition.

"It’s a great foundational skill set from which to build,” Kahle said. “If we know this is something that they’ve heard before going into the next season, we know where we should start.”by: PHIL HAWKINS - Gervais coach Kyle Buse conducts dribbling drills at the Cougar Hoop Camp, which attracted dozens of local athletes at the elementary and middle school levels. Buse was assisted by members of the Gervais girls varsity basketball team.

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