Anguilla is a very small island, located about about 200 miles east of Puerto Rico, in the Leeward Islands. It has really friendly people, great food and beautiful beaches. Travel was a flight from Miami to St. Maartin and then a 20 minute ferry to Anguilla.
The first thing I noticed was, as a British territory, that people drive on the wrong side of the road. I always thought that would be no big deal, but I was wrong. I have no doubt that if I drove here many people would wind up dead. Just crossing the street is a problem.
On this island of 13,000 people, there is really no basketball culture to speak of, except for a small group of dedicated residents who believe they can enrich the lives of the people of Anguilla, especially the kids, by exposing the to the game. The trip was postponed once to allow Hurricane Irene to pass over the Island. In fact, the coaches almost got caught in the weather as they were painting the court. That's right, the coaches were painting the court!
We are running the camp in 2 sections, 8-12 in the morning and 13 and up in the afternoon. It is a long day in the sun. Never did I ever think you could burn through SPF 50. The kids are great. Very positive, very respectful and very friendly. As players, they are all novices, even the older ones. They have never been through anything like this camp before. They are learning how to work hard, how to respect others on their team and how to play basketball.
The players are very willing learners. They are eager to soak up knowledge, no matter where it comes from. The coaches, all Island residents, are eager to learn as well. I have worked a lot of camps for a lot of years and rarely have I found a group that I enjoy being with as much as this group of coaches. Their connection through the kids to the game is something to be admired.
This has not been an easy week. Temperatures in the mid 90's, no cover, blazing sun, and other obstacles (I lathered on the SPF 50 but it had no effect). In the U. S. we get spoiled with facilities, equipment, etc. This camp, however, is the reason why we all should coach. An unique opportunity to reach people, of all ages, who are not jaded by false hopes of NBA paydays, no helicopter parents and no desires other than looking for a positive influence in their lives. The opportunity to touch so many people and have an effect on their lives is what coaching is all about.
Maribelle West and Paul Bell, the driving forces behind the the effort, have created a true grass roots program. Hopefully they will get the support they so richly deserve.
You can see their goals and aspirations at www.IslandHoopsABA.com