VALDOSTA –– Fundamentals, competition and fun. 

That’s the emphasis that head coach Mike Helfer puts on the Valdosta State men’s basketball instructional day camp. 

But there’s a chance that the campers will pick up a life lesson or two along the way. 

“It’s been a great camp,” Helfer said. “I think that as your summer camp grows it is not only a reflection of your season but the type of guys that you have in your program. We have what I consider high-character guys and I think that rubs off on the community and then they send their kids to camp.”

The first of the four day camp saw shooting drills and team scrimmages for the nearly 80 participants. Campers were separated into groups and were assisted by the VSU players and coaching staff. 

The players –– new and old –– were able to interact with youth that they otherwise wouldn’t.  It’s an opportunity that the Blazers are not taking for granted.

“It makes me more mature because I understand that they’re really looking up to me,” VSU forward Bryce Smith said. “They really watch our game … I feel like I need to give back to the community. When I was young I didn’t get camps and this type of stuff. I just did it on my own. So I feel like this is a good environment for me and the whole team.” 

The campers faced off against each other in shooting competitions and then called out the Blazers. 

They competed in a three-point shooting challenge where the first team to five wins. The losing team had to do push-ups. 

With the VSU players practicing and playing on their home court they should've had an advantage. 

But there is no judging the heart of a competitor and the campers defeated the Blazers. 

The campers celebrated as if they won a championship.

To them, they did. 

They had just beaten players that they look up to in a competition that was certain to result in defeat. 

After the win, the campers poked fun at the players while they completed their push-ups and broke out into more shooting drills. 

The camp concluded with Helfer describing consistency by using former Blazer Beau Justice. 

Justice shot and made nine out of 10 shots to the campers amazement. As Justice shot each shot, Helfer noted the consistency in his form. 

He shared with campers the hours of practice that Justice and the other Blazers work and noted that to be a great shooter they’d have to do the same. 

He then chose select campers that made an impression on the coaching staff by being polite or taking the extra step to help. The point was to get campers to understand that things beyond skill are important. 

“I think sometimes with not only campers but youth sports in general, parents, kids, everybody gets too caught up with the wins and losses. At the end of the day are people really going to remember that you won the 5-on-5 tournament at camp when you were 10 years old? Probably not. But if you can instill something there like saying thank you or doing something extra … I think that’s pretty valuable.”

The camp is for boys ranging from fifth to tenth grade and welcomes novice and experienced basketball players. It allows campers to be submerged into basketball daily for it’s duration. At the completion of camp the participants will not only be better players but better people.

At least that is Helfer’s goal.

“Our camp tries to focus on three things: fundamentals, competition and fun," Helfer said. “If we can do those three things and really put equal emphasis on all of those I think kids will have a great camp. I think it’s good for the community that you have something that everybody feels good about. Bringing their children here and leaving them here for a day so that we can work with them and develop them a little bit. Not just in basketball but in life in general.”

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