A record 296 campers took part in the "Hard Work Camp" which wrapped up the 2012 Rio men's basketball camp slate
Wed, Jul. 11, 2012 - [Men's Basketball]
Rio Grande Sports Information
RIO GRANDE, Ohio - For University of Rio Grande men's basketball head coach Ken French, the month of June annually becomes a microcosm of the grind that a typical season tends to produce.
French, his staff and current RedStorm players recently completed a strenuous 21-day stretch which included seven different shootouts for area varsity, junior varsity, middle school and girls' varsity programs, as well as a pair of day camps and the week-long overnight "Hard Work Camp". With the smoke now clearing from all of the effort, French emerged with a smile and a sense of accomplishment for his program.
"It's one of the most successful summers we've ever had," he said. "We feel like all of our camps and shootouts are high-quality in what we offer the young athletes that come through here and I think the number of kids we had come through here back that up. We had record-setting numbers in everything we offered."
More than 1,500 athletes visited the URG campus over the course of the three-week stretch, including a whopping 296 participants in the "Hard Work Camp".
"One of things I wanted to do was to make sure this was a place where people could come in the summer and work on their game - to work with their teams and to improve. I think we're providing that opportunity to everybody in our region," said French. "In terms of our overnight camp, we're providing that opportunity for people outside our region. We had kids from six different states here for the week this year - including some from Texas - and we're proud of it."
And, like any good business owner, providing the consumer with a good product at an affordable rate tends to produce repeat customers - a fact that French is keenly aware of.
"The word is getting out. It's not like we're spending a bunch of money on marketing or something like that, we're growing by word of mouth," he said. "A kid has a great week here, then he goes back home and brings two kids with him the following year. The coaches who bring their teams here for our shootouts enjoy the fact that we're well-organized, we're usually on schedule every time and we try to treat both the players and the coaches with class and provide them with a top-notch day where they can come in and get four games without a bunch of other bells and whistles."
In addition to the overnight camp - which prides itself on the fact that it deals with basketball and nothing else - and the shootouts, which provide a competitive, out-of-season opportunity for prep and junior high squads to lay the foundation for their upcoming campaign, the Rio men's basketball program also offers two day camps--one for boys and girls age 6-9 and a shooting camp for boys and girls age 8-18, both of which last for three hours over the course of three days.
The crown jewel of the offerings, though, is the overnight camp, which French expects will surpass the 300-mark in terms of participants next year.
In some instances, the camp serves a fruitful role in the recruiting process.
"Evan Legg is one of our former campers. Now he's here on a scholarship and was named the Freshman of the Year in the Mid-South Conference last season," said French. "We're starting to develop some kids and have them come through our camp who are recruitable. We get to see them grow up from that 9-, 10- and 11-year-old stage to the time that they're juniors and seniors in high school. Even if they're not recruitable, they're high-character kids and many of them want to come back and work the camp. When that happens, you know you're doing something right. The Hard Work Camp has a family environment and it's become very special to a lot of kids. For some of them, it's the highlight of their year."
One of those highlights comes in the camper's reward for their "Hard Work" during the week - a wildly entertaining triple-elimination tournament. This year's tourney took nearly 15 hours to complete and didn't conclude until just after 5 a.m.
"It's a great way to cap off the summer," French said retrospectively. "Now we'll take a couple of weeks off to re-charge and then we'll come back here to start preparing for the upcoming season."