The Harold Blevins Basketball Camp jump-started a week-long program at the Pine Bluff Convention Center with a full schedule of fun activities and learning opportunities for area children.
A group of about 150 boys and girls, ages 6-16, showed up on Tuesday — the second day of the camp, which runs Monday through Friday — ready to hang out with old friends and meet new ones while learning basic basketball techniques and life skills.
Starting with breakfast at 7:30 a.m., the youth warmed up with stretching exercises, learned how to dribble and pass the ball, practiced offense and defense and finished the day by putting their skills to the test in a free-style session.
The camp — named after Harold Blevins, former coach at University of Arkansas at Pine Bluff — is sponsored by the Pine Bluff Police Department. Sgt. Hosea Thompson facilitated the teams of assigned officers.
“This is part of the public relations that we do,” Thompson said. “By doing so, we are able to give back to the kids. And it makes you feel like you’re doing something good when you’re in Walmart and a kid runs up to you to say hello.”
“Sometimes, getting the girls motivated can take time,” said Officer Shanae Cain, who works with the 11- and 12-year-old girls. “Some of them have never played basketball. But it’s always nice when another girl who has played before takes it upon herself to step in and give her a few tips.”
While physical activity is a big part of the camp, participants also get coaching to help with making better choices and navigating real-life situations. Each day after lunch, a one-hour session taught by the officers covers topics on bullying, respect and good sportsmanship.
With the exception of one patrolman volunteer, the officers working with the children are also resource officers in the schools. Thompson said the two elements combined create a foundation for long-term relationships that benefit the youth now and into the future.
“We talk to them a lot about consequences,” said Thompson, adding that some of the youth have attended the camp since it started six years ago. “And we are able to follow through when we see them in school. We check on them to see how they are doing.”
At the end of the week, the youth will compete in contests and receive recognition for discipline, sportsmanship and technique.
“Every child we reach is one that will not be out there getting in trouble,” Thompson said.