POWHATAN -- Smiles, laughter, learning opportunities and basketball action were plentiful in the Powhatan High School gymnasium as youth of various ages enjoyed another day of Powhatan's basketball camp.
The longtime community staple that was begun by former longtime Powhatan basketball coach Steve Washburn – and is now in its 22nd year – made its return alongside several other Powhatan summer sports camps after none of them were held in 2020 due to the pandemic.
With this year’s basketball camp, there’s still emphasis on learning the game of basketball, from the fundamentals, to the different parts of the half-court (inside corner, top of the key, lane, etc.), to what the different penalty calls look like.
But this year, with everything that’s happened, Powhatan boys basketball coach Ryan Marable said that they’re “probably playing more games, having a little bit more fun, being a little less focused on the details because the kids do need to just come out here and get back to being a kid.”
“We want them to have fun,” Marable said, “but we do want them to play the right way, so we’re trying to find that balance of (getting them) better and hopefully getting them to either continue to love the game of basketball or have a greater love for the game of basketball through this camp.”
While there are still COVID-related measures in place – the campers and counselors are still social-distancing when they’re not playing and coaching, respectively, and they can choose to wear masks – the games and drills look like they always have.
“We’re still trying to prevent anything from happening, but…when we’re involved and the kids are playing, it is definitely back to normal,” Marable said, “and it’s fun to see – allowing themselves to just be kids again and just play the game that they love, play the games that they love with other camps, too.”
Marable, Powhatan girls basketball coach Kristy Henderson and Washburn – who helmed the Powhatan boys varsity team from 2006 to 2019 and before that coached the JV team for seven years – were all part of this year’s camp.
“With having three varsity coaches – a former coach, Coach Henderson, myself – each one can kind of put their own spin on it so the kids can learn different things, different ways, different fundamentals,” Marable said.
He mentioned from talking to Coach Henderson how they grew up going to camps and loving going to camps and learning from players and coaches at the high schools that they were going to eventually attend.
“So the fact that we can do that as coaches is great,” Marable said, adding how the players, through taking on that role of coaching the campers as counselors, can get a different perspective of the game and what their coaches go through.
“I think with our players, when you teach the game the right way, it also helps you play the game the right way, and now that you’re teaching it, something might help you…that will allow you to be more successful, so it’s really great for our players to be counselors and coaches,” Marable said.
Washburn said that, as the counselors are teaching a skill or something else related to the game, they’re making themselves stronger at it.
“They’re getting back to how it’s supposed to be taught and how it’s supposed to be done, so I think it’s not only a win for the campers, because they’re learning the skills, but also for our counselors as well because they’re having to teach the skill over again, and teach themselves how to do it correctly,” Washburn said. “I think it’s totally rewarding from everybody’s perspective. The campers get someone to pattern their game off of, and then the counselors themselves, they get an understanding of their importance to how they’re supposed to act and how they’re supposed to handle themselves on and off the court, because they’re now looked at differently.”
Washburn started the camp at the old high school in 1999, and he’s seen it evolve to the point where 90 percent of their current counselors, he estimates, started out attending the camp as campers themselves.
“And it’s been like that for years and years,” Washburn said, “and ultimately, that’s what it’s set up to do – for the girls and for the boys alike – so many kids who come through the program, have been part of the camp for years, now become the counselors that help instruct the camp, and that’s very gratifying, very good for all of us."
One of the first people who attended the camp back when it first started was Hannah Livermon, Washburn said. Livermon has gone on to become a member of the Randolph-Macon Women’s Basketball team’s coaching staff.
Some of the past campers have gone on to not only have successful high school careers, but also play in college. Others who came through have gone on to prosper in other sports.
“But just to have them as part of this, the relationships they build with each other has been great, just to watch friendships being made, and kids getting to spend time with each other,” Washburn said. “Especially after last year, when we were away from everybody…you could just see the excitement this year, them being able to enjoy camp again.”
Washburn said he was so thankful that Coach Marable is here to continue this tradition, and he’s also so thankful that he’s still able to come out to the camp and help as well.
“It’s something I want to see continue for many, many more years,” Washburn said, “because, for me, it’s very gratifying to come back and just see this type of participation – 75 kids out here enjoying the summer and enjoying the opportunity to play the game that they love.”