1st-time hoop camp attracts younger teens to center
In private hands since 2010, the Westside Community Center's resurgence has been widely praised for programs and activities appealing to adults and smaller children.
The gap, as identified by Dick Siever, the center's executive director, has been activities for younger teens.
Part of that gap has been filled with “the Hangar,” a Friday night dance and video game experience that started in January.
This week, sports became part of that mix, with a free, first-time, three-day coed basketball camp that attracted 16 middle-schoolers.
Lasting from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. July 8-10, the Westside Basketball Skills Camp was led by Mark Felix, a health and physical education teacher at Coronado High School and former UCCS basketball coach. He was asked to take the job on a volunteer basis by Bill Morr, the center's operations manager.
“I have three sons, and sports have been a big part of their lives,” Morr explained. “I also have grandsons going to camp, and I see how it's helped them.” In addition, he said, he's seen kids over the years play sports who, “if they'd started earlier and learned the basics, how much more fun they would have had.”
So he called up Felix, who had coached his son Eric at UCCS in the early '90s. “I asked him if he would run a camp for a day,” Morr said. “He said, 'No, I'll do it for three.”
Felix said he believes that kids that age are “kind of an underserved group,” and working with them “was just fun. I saw a tremendous amount of improvement.”
“It was really a mixed bag,” he added. “There were kids with pretty good basketball skills, some intermediate and some true beginners. What I liked was their enthusiasm and the way they were helping and challenging each other.”
Helping with the appeal was that the center is a meals site this summer through School District 11, so the basketball camp could also be advertised as offering free breakfast and lunch.
The camp's only flaw was logistical. The Community Center's gym, a carryover from the site having been an elementary school, has a ceiling that's too low for the standard 10-foot baskets. As a result, Felix had the kids play on the center's outdoor court. But it has an issue too. Installed years ago, the backboard is attached directly to the pole, instead of extended away from it, like modern backboards. “It was like the movie, 'Hoosiers,' ” Felix joshed.
But Morr is undeterred. Even if basketball camps are iffy in the center's future, Morr would like to build on the general concept of sports camps at the Community Center. One possibility is connecting with the Olympic Training Center, to see about athletes coming in and representing various respective sports. “If you look around and talk to people, you can make these things work,” Morr philosophized. “There's always a way when you're determined.”
Westside Pioneer article