The rest of Steinbrenner High was empty June 25 to 28, but the Warriors gym was packed with basketball players improving their game.
In fact, the Steinbrenner Warriors Basketball Camp was split between two sites to accommodate the 98 participants ranging in age from 8 to 16. The youngest filled Martinez Middle’s gym, while the older kids were across the parking lot at Steinbrenner.
Warriors girls basketball coach JR Allen couldn’t have smiled bigger when he said the camp had grown from 31 kids during the inaugural event last summer.
“When I got hired here I wanted to do this, but we wanted to get that first year under our belt to build our program before thinking about branching out,” said Allen, adding they may include a second session next year because of the popularity.
The first mission was accomplished when Allen’s team won a district championship last season in the program’s third year. The second goal also seems guaranteed with so many kids participating in the camp.
“I do believe that the accomplishments we had last year has helped build this camp,” said Steinbrenner senior forward/guard Bailey Hooker, who volunteered at the event the last two years. “A lot of these kids are from Martinez, and it’s really cool. Coach Allen told us we’re going to become some little girl or some little boy’s hero. That’s cool to see them look up to you. Out of everything I’ve gotten from coaches, I get to give it back to them.”
Allen said it’s a privilege to introduce a lot of the campers to basketball.
“I’ve been able to do a lot because of basketball,” Allen said. “I kind of see this as a way of paying the game back for all it’s given me by not only coaching the kids at Steinbrenner, but also these younger kids.”
Among the 98 campers are most of those who participated last year, including Makenzie Muley. The guard will be a freshman at Steinbrenner this fall and wanted to get used to the faster paced game in high school.
“It’s a lot different than middle school,” Muley said. She added, “They also teach really good skills; taught me a lot of shooting drills.”
Also back is Steinbrenner sophomore Alex Abdul. He doesn’t play on the school’s basketball team and doesn’t plan to, but returned to the camp because he liked learning about the game.
“It’s a good way to stay active during the summer and learn more about basketball,” Abdul said. “This year I think my defense has gotten better.”
Allen had a lot of help coaching the event. All nine of his returning varsity players volunteered, along with many from the junior varsity team.
“Not only are they getting volunteer hours, but they’re getting leadership skills, which is something every team can build,” Allen said. “It
isn’t always just about the ball on the court. If you’re well refined as a person, that’s going to translate onto the court. Now, instead of having one or two leaders, we can have a whole group of leaders because of this camp.”
Allen added all the money from the camp is going directly into the Warriors girls basketball program for equipment and other expenses.
Senior forward Lauren Shedd organized and ran the camp for the younger kids for the second straight year, despite the time and energy it requires.
“I just have a heart for little kids,” Shedd said. “I don’t have any younger siblings, so I never got to be around them a lot. They’re cute and fun to work with, and I’m a big kid too.”
Last year, Shedd had less than 10 youngsters to coach. This year she had 38.
“We break it down to its simplest form,” Shedd continued. “It’s all about basics. The first day we worked on ball handling. Then we worked on defense and passing. I just take it down to the lowest you can and build up from there so they understand. We want them to learn and take as much knowledge as they can from the camp so they grow as players.”
Shedd said the time together will also benefit the high school team once the season begins as the Warriors look to defend their district title.
“It’s nice to get the junior varsity and varsity team together on common ground,” Shedd said. “Now it’s not like we’re JV and varsity. We’re just one big team. It’s cool as well to get to step on the other side and see how difficult it is to coach. It gives us an appreciation for our coach. … It’s a lot harder than I ever imagine. I give coach Allen mad props.”