The 5th Annual Southland Church Basketball Camp took place in Steinbach, Manitoba. A record-breaking 83 middle school campers and 28 coaches, including myself, took part in the four-day camp. From 3-on-3 tournaments to defensive and offensive stations, the camp has a lot to offer.
But this camp does more than just developing skills and holding competitions, both campers and coaches alike grew in character. Coaches taught valuable lessons about traits such as integrity, serving, teamwork, and excellence. Those four words were known as the “four core."
Each day, a new word from the four core was introduced. A coach would come up and talk about lessons from their personal experience.
The stories ranged from decisions that greatly affected his or her life or just some silly mistakes from the coach’s childhood. These stories made an impact on kids because campers may face similar situations during their lives.
“I think it’s important for athletes to learn the four core because it will have a lifelong impact on them. I believe it also teaches kids how to be upstanding citizens off the court, not just great athletes on the court,” said coach Starina Penner.
The one word we really focused on was integrity. Don Dewey, the camp’s coordinator, shared his personal experiences, explaining the importance of integrity and how people of all ages can demonstrate integrity whether you’re an athlete or not.
“Integrity is critical because if a person isn't trustworthy, responsible, and truthful, it will be difficult at school, with family and friends, and on a sports team,” said Dewey.
Sam Wiebe coached a group of kids going into grades 5 and 6. He felt that the lessons and the camp’s values made a huge difference for his team.
“After four days I felt like I was coaching a different team, a team that cared for its teammates and showed class even when they lost,” explained Wiebe.
While both campers and coaches were always on their A game and had a competitive mindset on at all times, winning wasn’t the main priority. The campers learned all about respect and good sportsmanship. They picked it up quickly and showed it, even if the games didn’t go the way they wanted them to go.
“I think that it is essential that kids learn from a young age that there is more to sports than just winning. These campers learned to place an emphasis on integrity rather than simply focusing on the W,” Wiebe added.
The camp was split into two divisions. There was a grades-5-and-6 division as well as a one for grades 7 and 8. Teams worked together, shared the rock, played lockdown defense, and battled it out in every game. Of course, both campers and coaches had fun in the intense atmosphere.
“My highlight of the week was the games, because we got to play against our friends and also make new ones,” said Benjamin Gigolyk, who participated in the camp.
The 3-on-3 “King’s Court” tournaments were also a highlight for many. It got heated at times, with teams going back and forth. But of course, in every round, smiles, high-fives, and fist bumps were shared.
One kid from each division was picked for the sportsmanship award. These campers were not only chosen for their strength on the court, but also for how they treated everyone else.
Players from the 7-and-8 division got to play an organized game against the coaches. Thrilling dunks, sneaky cuts, and crazy layups made this game a must-see. On the 5-and-6’s side, all-star campers played against their peers, with some playing against their own teammates. The defence really stood out in this game.
Many parents came out on the final day to cheer on their kids and watched them play hard and have fun.
“I loved seeing how in just four short days teams went from strangers to friends.” Wiebe said. “Watching relationships grow in front of my eyes was a blessing.”
Photo credit: Adam Buhler