Fun and fundamentals

Published 8:46 pm Thursday, August 6, 2009

ECLIPSE – When it comes to basketball in Suffolk, the city is fortunate to have witnessed such big events as tournaments, players who earn college scholarships, packed gyms on many nights through the winter and even a state champion this past March.

With all the excitement and tense moments, it’s easy to forget the game can simply be fun.

A summer basketball camp hosted at Ebenezer United Methodist Church in North Suffolk is a good reminder that basketball, and sports in general, should sometimes be nothing but fun and instructive.

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Led by coaches Larry Smith and Tim Allison, about 40 kids were at the church’s Family Life Center each night this week. Even with a big yelling contest included, and the jumbled disorder of a seven-kids-vs.-two-coaches game near the end of one night’s action, basketball fundamentals and each kid improving as the week moved on were the top priorities.

“It’s because I love to play basketball and I love to teach kids. It’s great watching kids progress in their skills, even from day to day,” said Masha Register, a King’s Fork High School student who was helping Smith with the younger kids.

“I started coming to this church two or three years ago,” said Smith. Ebenezer UMC has Upward basketball and soccer leagues and has had summer camps in each sport in the last couple of weeks. The Upward soccer league is continuing to grow to the point that kids are growing out of the league, and Ebenezer is starting a senior league for players ages sixth grade to adults this fall.

“I love sports and love kids, so it all goes together,” said Smith.

“Last night (the kids) were good. Tonight they’ve been great, and tomorrow they’ll be even better,” said Register.

“When I was little, I played here, so I just like to help out and get more and more involved,” said Register.

“It’s just exciting to teach kids while playing a simple game and it’s just for fun. I’m more of kid out there than they are,” said Smith, who was clearly more exhausted than any of the kids he had been coaching for the past two hours on Wednesday evening.

While he was bent over with his hands on his knees, most of the campers were still racing around the court and pretending not to hear their parents as they tried to get going on the way home.