Attendance up at Helias boys camp

Joey DeFeo shouts out as he steps up to cut off the shot of Helias’ Trevor Koelling at the defensive skills station Wednesday in the Helias boys basketball summer camp at Rackers Fieldhouse.

Joey DeFeo shouts out as he steps up to cut off the shot of Helias’ Trevor Koelling at the defensive skills station Wednesday in the Helias boys basketball summer camp at Rackers Fieldhouse. Photo by Kris Wilson.

It’s your classic good news/bad news scenario.

The bad news? The Helias boys basketball coaching staff and players are busier than ever this week.

The good news? That’s due to the fact there’s more interest than ever in their annual summer camp.

That growing interest led to a new age group being added this summer, as the session for kindergarten through second grade included 35 kids.

“Every session has been fun, but it’s been very enjoyable adding the younger kids, K through 2,” Helias head coach Josh Buffington said. “We knew it was going to be a different challenge, but I know it’s been a great experience for me, our staff and our players, and I hope it has been the same for those kids.”

It’s an age group that can pose its own unique challenges, but as the group heads into today’s final session, things have gone smoothly.

“They’ve been great listeners, and we’ve been encouraging them every minute of the day,” Buffington said. “We just want them to have fun and get a ball in their hands.”

The new age group has posed another logistical issue, as those players can’t use the 10-foot rims at Helias.

“Fortunately, a good friend of mine helped us out and we were able to get four portable goals in here,” Buffington said. “With 35 kids in that session, it’s worked out to about nine kids per goal for station work, then at the end of every day we play 3-on-3. I think the kids are eating it up and the parents are enjoying what they’ve seen as well.”

And this could be just the start.

“I think word will spread and next year we’ll possibly double the numbers in that session,” Buffington said. “Our main focus and goal in that session is to bring a lot of enthusiasm to get those kids to love the game of basketball at a young age and maybe go home the rest of the summer and get a basketball out and play in the driveway.”

But it’s not just the players who are reaping the benefits of the situation.

“We’re building relationships with those kids and one of the best things about our camp experience is that our Helias players are put in more of a leadership role when it comes to mentoring and coaching these guys.”

The camp, which held its final sessions for those in grades 3-12 on Thursday, ended up with around 220 players. There were 84 in grades 3-6, another 50 for grades 7-8 and 45-50 in grades 9-12.

“I’m going into my sixth year and we’ve always been fortunate to have high numbers, but it’s pretty cool that we still exceed the previous year on a yearly basis — we hope to keep going up,” Buffington said. “This is a great promotion for our program and a great time for us to work with the kids in the community.

“We really enjoy it, we’re passionate about it as a staff. This is one of my most fun weeks in the calendar year when it comes to basketball.”

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