WARDSVILLE - Work in the summer may seem like the first step in a journey, but for the Blair Oaks boys basketball team, the journey started even further back.
"We have individual meetings at the end of the season and really map out for these guys what they need to work on individually, and this is the time they need to do that," Blair Oaks head coach Ryan Fick said.
The Falcons are meeting from 8:30-10:30 a.m. for the first four days of this week as part of the Falcon Basketball Camp. It's one of four sessions being held each day, with the first one (for grades 10-12) perhaps the most important.
"We try to emphasize to the guys that there needs to be a balance in the summer between the work they're putting in at the gym and the games we're playing as a team," Fick said. "They become better players in open gyms and working on their own, then the games we play supplement that.
"I tell the guys, every year is a new puzzle. There's new pieces - we graduated some guys and there's new guys ready to fill those pieces - and the games are the start of putting that puzzle together."
The games include something like what happened later Tuesday, as the Falcons traveled to Linn to take on teams from the host school and Fatima.
"It started with about six or seven teams in a league, but several folded," Fick said. "So right now, all we're doing is us, Linn and Fatima get together for three Tuesdays and play each other. It's a game-like situation with officials."
Blair Oaks will get some more games in the Capital City Shootout set for June 15-16 before heading to team camp at the University of Central Missouri at the end of the month.
"We haven't gone (to UCM) for a few years, we're anxious to get back there," Fick said. "That's a great setup, they run a great camp. We're looking forward to that."
While the Falcons will return four starters and several bench players from a team that went 21-6, it will still be a different team.
"That's why the games you play in the summer are so important, because you start working on that chemistry and trying to mesh everything together," he said. "It's a long journey from now until March. Every team has a goal to still be playing in March, so that's the journey you're hopefully on. Lots of things can happen between now and then, and everybody has a fresh start now.
"We've got more experience returning this year, but with that comes some higher expectations as well. I think the guys we have are hungry."
Those players are also getting a unique experience during the three other sessions this week, as there are roughly 85 campers in grades 2-8.
"We've got our older guys in here helping out with that," Fick said. "It's good for the younger kids to see those guys, and it gives those older guys a different perspective on coaching.
"It's also a good opportunity for us as coaches to get to know the younger kids who are coming up through the program and a good opportunity for them to get to know us."