It’s not everyday you get to travel out of the country while doing the thing you love most. Choosing to go to one of the British Islands with white sand and clear blue water was not a very hard decision especially knowing I would get to help out the locals and my Evolution Basketball. Turks & Caicos is a small but beautiful island, and the locals certainly contribute to its appeal. Throughout my stay, I made plenty of friends from the youngest kids on the court to our fishing captain, Arthur. The locals really contributed to the “Homey” feel of the island, I never once felt out of place or unsafe.
The Rising Stars & Evolution Basketball camp consisted of 10 coaches/counselors and about 35 locals (Alex counts as a local), and I can probably still name all 35 kids and adults. On my first day I was a little nervous pulling in, it doesn’t exactly scream “gym” while in the parking lot. I’ve played in most gyms in the DMV area, including the Verizon Center and VCU’s Arena. There are things I quickly learned that I took for granted, especially air conditioning and waxed floors. All this being said, the Gus Lightbourne Gym in TCI has its own appeal. It has united a community of people who all share a passion for one thing; Basketball! Passion might even be an understatement; every single kid in the gym LOVES the game of basketball and that made camp so much more enjoyable than any I’ve been to in the past.
My experience was actually very different from all of the other coaches… I got to be both a coach and a player! I realized that this really sped up my ability to make friends with the local players but also allowed me to give them tips and pointers on skill development to help them become better players. I did not cut them any slack, especially the older players. I was yelling on the court while we were playing exactly how I would on my high school floor during practice with my Madison teammates. Watching them progress on AND off the court was probably the highlights of the trip. After the first day, kids would always come give me a high five me or shake my hand. This coming from our “Personal Development Stations” every morning where we work on “Introductions” and other life skills. Their play on the court also improved immensely, by the last day we even a ran 5 Man Weave which is a difficult drill with all the moving pieces. Overall, the kids clearly benefitted from the camp and were left with plenty of drills and instruction that will help to continue their progress.
While drills and competition are fun, my favorite part of camp was definitely dunking during water breaks. Dunking is something I personally enjoy and clearly the local kids do as well. Their athleticism was on show and was thoroughly entertaining for all to watch. Being that I’m a 6’0” white kid, the fact that I could dunk with them certainly helped my street credit.
When I initially agreed to help Alex out with camp, I had a more vacation based agenda in mind. That being said, camp rapidly evolved over the week into the best part of the trip even with the 6:30am alarm every morning. When camp ended on the last day and it came time to say goodbye, I wasn’t disappointed because it felt more like a “see you next year”. I can’t wait to be reunited with the friends I made and see how far they’ve grown figuratively and literally!
Madison High School Class of 2017