Largo basketball coach Rodney Ward has become a staple in Vienna's summer youth camp scene for the last twenty years.
VIENNA, Va. (WUSA) -- As youth sports continue on the path toward becoming a year-round commitment like their collegiate and professional counterparts, it's refreshing to see a summer basketball camp use the game "Simon Says" to teach focus and discipline.
Shortly after summer league wraps up and right before team camps begin, Largo High School basketball coach Rodney Ward drives the hour trip into Fairfax County to host a basketball skills camp for the town of Vienna. Unlike the countless number of camps that litter the region, focusing on dribbling drills and making scrimmages the centerpiece, Ward concentrates on pure fundamentals of the game. First asked by Vienna to run the camp when he coached at Annandale, Ward has headed the camp for the last 20 years.
"When we first started, we had maybe 15-20 kids that were not really into basketball, but just looking for something to do other than going to soccer camp or lacrosse camp," Ward said. "The way it has turned out, the camp has grown year to year as more kids have been interested into basketball and become better basketball players."
The camp has grown now to 50 kids a week and the demand for the camp has prompted a second week-long session. More importantly, all the extra bodies allow Ward and his coaching staff--moonlighting Largo players helping out Ward--to play full court games, an evolution far removed from Ward's earlier camps where campers ran in lay-up lines.
Twenty years is a long time. In those 20 years, Ward has seen the sport of basketball become less marginalized in a region that's trademarks are lacrosse and soccer.
"I've seen basketball in general in the D.C., Maryland, and Northern Virginia area get better and the kids getting better too," said Ward.
Ward's camp on basketball fundamentals is scheduled during the dead period when he's not working with his high school team at Largo. The Lions played in the Falconers Summer League, netting a third place finish and the young Lions look to be competitive in Maryland 2A come winter time. The weekend right after Ward's camp in Vienna calls it a wrap; Ward will be en route to a team camp at Mount St. Mary's University. The Virginia camp offers a nice change of pace for the coaching vet.
"It's a nice respite, the stakes aren't as high and the kids are looking to have a good time. We have a lot of repeat campers, it's mainly a family-oriented camp", said Ward.
Ward refers to his camps as family-focused because campers bring their actual siblings and relatives. Over Ward's years running the camps, the program has become a part of the Vienna community and a good option for campers looking for a change from outdoor sports. That kind of communal experience helped Ward decide against ending his association with Vienna's camps after he moved from his job at Centreville to his current position at Largo.
"We thought about coming over to serve the kids. We have a bunch of good kids and its one of the better camps that I'm a part of. We have a camp in Largo also, but that camp is a little more focused on basketball, this camp is more about the fundamentals, having a good time, making some friends, enjoying yourself and becoming a better overall person," said Ward.
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