ROCHELLE — Tim Thompson has been coaching basketball at Rochelle Township High School for nearly 20 years. While Thompson has made countless memories with both players and coaches, leading the boys basketball program’s youth summer camp is one of his favorite times of the year.
“It’s so fun to see how the kids grow,” Thompson said. “A lot of the kids who come to our camp end up playing for me at the high school. We see the growth that everybody in our community helps out with, whether it’s through Henry Bunger and the Rochelle Youth Basketball Association or the parents who bring their kids to our summer camp.”
The RTHS summer camp allows players from first through eighth grade to learn the basics of basketball and improve the skills they already have. Younger campers, particularly at the grade-school level, learn fundamentals like dribbling, footwork, making layups and basketball terminology. Advanced campers, mainly middle-schoolers, review basic skills and work on refining techniques including screens, individual moves, shooting, low-post play and more.
“We primarily focus on dribbling exercises with the first, second and third-graders since they’re not strong enough to get their shots up yet,” Thompson said. “Every kid coming into high school needs to dribble the ball well with both hands. Even when we work with our middle-schoolers, we emphasize dribbling, passing and shooting. They need to have those skills when they walk into our building as freshmen.”
First through fourth-graders will work out this week from 10:30 a.m. to 12 p.m. Fifth through eighth-graders get two weeks of camp beginning June 17 and running through June 27 from 8 to 10 a.m. Thompson, his coaching staff and current RTHS players run the camp, which includes treats, contests, prizes and gifts for participation.
“The camp gives all of us coaches a chance to put names to the faces of our kids and get them into the program,” Thompson said. “We want to build a culture where kids walk in and know what our expectations are. Getting to know the kids when they’re young is an excellent way to do that.”