While the summer heat is just getting started, the basketball courts at Seymour and Brownstown Central middle schools are already ablaze.
Both girls programs are hosting their second week of youth basketball camps this week and are emphasizing fun while building for the future.
Seymour sees growth
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With 80 girls in kindergarten through eighth grade, the Seymour camp saw an increase in participation this summer.
“I think it’s mostly because we’ve been here a while and have been working with these kids a little bit,” Seymour varsity coach Jason Longmeier said. “Amber Williams has been helping a lot with our youth program and brought some of these kids in. As we continue to build relationships with each age level, I think more kids will continue to get involved.”
Kindergarten through third-grade camps are going from 1 to 2:30 p.m., and the fourth- through eighth-graders went from 2:30 to 4:15.
“Mainly, with the younger ones, we’re trying to get the ball in their hands,” Longmeier said. “We work on dribbling and shooting just a little bit. The focus is on ball handling and playing some games along with it.”
With the older kids, the game gets a little more complicated.
“We get a little more advanced. We get up and down the court a little bit more with the fourth- and fifth-graders,” Longmeier said. “We work more on game situations with them.”
Along with the program’s staff, high school athletes also are helping out with the camp.
With many of the campers already involved in leagues and travel teams, the Seymour coaching staff sees a lot of familiar faces.
“We have some kids in here with a lot of talent,” Longmeier said. “We’ve been really impressed with some of our incoming fourth- and fifth-graders. We’ve put some time into those kids. Amber Williams has spent a lot of time working on skill development and giving playing time. The more we can get the ball in their hands and get them playing, the better off we will be.”
Incoming fifth-grader Greer Henry said she wanted to learn more about the game coming into camp.
“I like the shooting part the best,” Henry said. “I get to make more baskets and practice more. It’s really cool working with the high school players.”
For incoming seventh-grader Olivia Fish, it was her third straight year attending the camp.
She said she has specific areas where she wants to improve.
“I like playing in the full court,” Fish said. “You get more action. I want my footwork and shooting to get better.”
Brownstown Central creating relationships
In Brownstown, on top of sharpening skills and doing drills, a big focus is getting to know the players and getting the program fired up.
Varsity coach Karla Rieckers said having members of the high school program help is a big deal for the campers.
“The relationships they build with the high-schoolers means a lot,” Rieckers said. “The kids like talking to the older players and look up to them. I don’t know if the (campers) will be able to tell you my name at the end of camp, but they will know all of the high-schoolers’ names.”
Near 40 athletes are attending the camps.
The Braves’ camp is broken down into two one-hour sessions for the younger kids and an hour-and-a-half session for the oldest group.
“The third and fourth grade, we’re really working the basics,” Rieckers siad. “We do a little bit of layups and close shots, but we’re focusing on the correct form — not shooting with two hands and have their hands on the basketball right. We do dribbling with them. We introduce them to basketball, where the baseline and sidelines are. Just basketball knowledge.”
“When we move to fifth and sixth grades, we push them more. We start all groups with ball handling because we think that’s important. When you get to seventh and eighth grade, we’re putting more offenses in with them — things we run at the high school and things we want them to know.”
On Friday, everything will come to a close with camp challenge night for all players.
Players will challenge each other in various areas such as “hot shot,” dribbling, hustling, etc. Awards will be given out at the conclusion of the event.
“We will get it all finalized to four or five in each contest,” Rieckers said. “Then we will finish with their parents watching. We want to try to create enthusiasm for girls basketball.”
Abby Schroer, an incoming fifth-grader, said she loved multiple parts of the camp.
“I’m really good at basketball, and I love it,” she said. “I get to hang out with my friends here. It’s a lot of fun, and you can learn a lot from the coaches. I like doing the drills, especially the rebounding.”
Incoming sixth-grader Rylee May said she felt like her skills were improving during camp.
“It’s a fun activity to do in the summer,” May said. “I like basketball because you get to play with your friends, and it gives me exercise. I’ve learned how to shoot better and control my dribbling. I want to be a better basketball player than I was when camp started.”