Although most youth sports camps end with the prize of a t-shirt for their participation, Sealy girls basketball head coach Anthony Branch took an alternate route with his Lady Tiger Youth Basketball Camp this year.
“We did something a little different, instead of giving the kids t-shirts we gave them a camp basketball,” he said. “They’re black and gold and that way any kid can’t say they don’t have a basketball.”
That wasn’t the only aspect out of the norm for this year’s camp as Branch mentioned he wanted a camp specifically for the girls in order to let them work more specific situations.
“I felt it was important we have just a girls camp that way they can have the same experience as the boys (on their own) so this is the third year, we didn’t have as many numbers as I would have liked but the numbers we did have had a good attitude,” he said.
The camp was offered to students entering grades two through nine for Monday Tuesday and Wednesday of last week with certain athletes grouped together.
“You get the second, third and fourth graders and you teach them to shoot with the correct form and eventually the kids keep coming back and by the time they’re in sixth or seventh grade, they’ve heard the terminology and now they’ve developed good shooting form,” Branch said.
“Second to fourth graders went on the lower goal, we want them to have a chance to develop just like we do in little dribblers on the eight-and-a-half-foot hoop and they had a blast, we played a lot of games,” he added.
“Then we had kids going to fifth grade on their own and you could see there’s still learning to do but they’re making progress,” said Branch. “Then we had the sixth- through ninth-grade group and integrated them to shooting on the bigger goal and basically we worked on a lot of form shooting, dribbling and making sure they do left- and right-handed layups, the fundamental things they’re going to need to do.”
He elaborated on the importance of laying the groundwork now so that they’re familiar with what’s going on when they get to high school.
“The thing I’m worried about for them now is getting down the form and then when you get to high school you should be able to worry a little more about actually making the baskets,” Branch said.
Speaking of making it to the high school level, the coach also mentioned some former players not only helping out with coaching camp but they’ve also gotten involved with running teams in summer leagues.
“I’ve been here now four years and I’m just trying to get the kids out, I’ve got to continue to do a good job of making sure people know who I am and that I’m here for these girls and to build our program, it’s not my program. I’ve told former players it’s our program, they’re always invited back,” he said. “I got three of our former players coaching summer league for junior high so they’re giving back to the program and that’s phase one of what I want to see.”
The next step involves more coaching to provide a broadening of their horizons on the game altogether.
“We have our players try to coach little dribblers as well to give them the experience of working with the younger kids and to give them a perspective of what it’s like to give back to our program so I’m really excited about where we’re at,” Branch said.
To maintain that positive trend he added his one simple message to the campers over the offseason.
“The thing I wanted them to do is practice, don’t just come to camp and then not pick up another basketball until little dribblers,” said Branch. “Practice at home, whether it’s spending 10 minutes on ball handling, 10 minutes on form shooting, you have a basketball now and if you didn’t have one before, now you have a basketball … I wanted to stress to them to practice, practice, practice, and be a kid; enjoy playing sports at this level.”
At the end of the day, the athlete needs to make the decision to commit to getting better and although that part is on them, Coach Branch said he’ll take care of the rest.
“Whatever I can do with an open gym or a summer league, having skills training whatever I can do, there’s no reason you can’t be as good as you want to be, it’s all a matter of you deciding you want to be good and if you want to be a good basketball player, the opportunity is here to be as good as you want,” he said. “You’ve got coaches here at the high school and junior high school that know and love the game and we’re going to do everything we can to make this program as best as it possibly can be.”