Carson Frost, participant of Basketball & Beyond
Basketball isn’t just a hobby of mine, it’s a lifestyle. Most kids my age spend their precious school-free summers with a thirst for adventure, using their newly acquired drivers’ licenses as a ticket to the unknown. For me, life is a constant cycle of eat, sleep and hoop. To a certain extent, I look at it as work with personal expectations to meet and milestones to conquer. But since a young age, it’s been my refuge, my escape from the growing societal peril and hopelessness.
Here in Cache Valley, few basketball fans could forget the Utah State Aggies’ 2008-09 campaign. They climbed as one of the top programs in the country, led by the monstrous big men pairing of Gary Wilkinson and Tai Wesley. Since that special year, they have held a local camp each summer as a way for kids to meet their favorite star athletes from the Utah State program. Now, I know that not every kid lives and breathes the game like I do, and when I first entered the Sky View High School gym three summers ago, Gary and Tai’s camp was different from my other basketball academies. I always have put pressure on myself to compete at the highest level, but for an average kid simply looking to have fun and enjoy playing, the excitement was the same.
Gary and Tai would be the first to say that it’s not simply a basketball camp, but a basketball and beyond camp. Believe me, I still got my shots up, but the coaches aren’t just in attendance to mold you into an elite player. Over three days, the kids focus on three attributes that can help to improve their character. Corresponding to daily homework assignments allow them to test and apply their character as a way to build lifelong skills that go far beyond a basketball court. From these lessons, I have understood that the legendary athletes are the ones whose recognition come from who they are and not what they do.
When the time comes for the on-court games, not only will the coaches instruct the correct fundamentals and principles of the sport, but they’ll hold competitions for rewards such as candy, drinks, or even a monetary prize. During these, the competitive spirit encourages a high level of play, but even for the less gifted athletes, they still enjoy themselves as fellow players and coaches are slow to judge and quick to uplift and cheer.
While many camps might be run as a way for the organizers to make some extra cash, Gary and Tai use their earnings as an opportunity to give back to the community through initiatives like a canned food drive. Something as simple as a couple of cans from each kid can feed hundreds of less fortunate members of the community. In order to really turn the coaches’ heads and make a true impact at this camp, your commitment must go beyond the gymnasium doors and into your everyday surroundings.
When you arrive at the Gary Wilkinson and Tai Wesley Camp, your ability on the court will be tested, but the kids that succeed are those who have the best moves during the dance competition or demonstrate quick reflexes in Simon Says (or “G Says” as Gary calls it). While a top level athlete can take their talent around the world, a top level human being can leave an imprint for an eternity.