Building a program: Pelham girls basketball and softball coaches build through summer camp

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Sports Editor

PELHAM – Seeing the transformation of a camper go from unable to do something to learning in a short period of time and growing a love for a new sport is part of the joy Pelham girls basketball and softball head coaches Crosby Morrison and Rachel McClure get out of their jobs.

It’s also the reason the two young coaches decided to host a joint summer camp for their sports at Pelham High School from June 3-5.

With McClure just finishing her second year at Pelham and Morrison just having finished her first year with the Panthers, both are looking to build a program from the roots up to sustain success at the school and in the city moving forward.

Previously, there had been no camp for girls basketball or softball at Pelham, just for volleyball. But in 2019, both McClure and Morrison vowed to change that.

“We wanted to hit the athletes that enjoy these sports but haven’t had the opportunity to participate here in a camp in a long time,” Morrison said. “We wanted to generate the interest and excitement for our sports by combining our camps together.”

With the combination of the two camps split up during the day, it not only gave both coaches a chance to interact with players interested in their sports, but also players that had possibly never played the sport before, which is exactly what they were hoping for.

McClure and Morrison said that half of the campers hadn’t played the other sport and were there to just focus on one sport, but throughout the week, they grew an appreciation for the other sport they hadn’t previously known.

One of the campers came in on the first day and Morrison asked her if she had ever played basketball to which the young athlete said with no.

“She was here for the softball camp,” Morrison said. “I was just glad to have her at basketball.”

Morrison said the camper couldn’t dribble or do much of anything basketball related at first, but then she got linked up with one of the high school players.

“She was good with her and taught her the skills, which gave her confidence in her dribbling ability,” Morrison said.

But that was just the beginning of her transformation.

“She had never really shot a basketball before this camp,” Morrison said. “We gave her some pointers and told her how to fix her shot and she ended up winning knockout.”

That victory came on the second to last day of camp and took her from being a person there just for softball to completely developing basketball skills that she may had never come to enjoy had she not been a part of the joint camp.

“She learned from the camp and used her form,” Morrison said. “She had an absolute blast and you could see it all over her face. She had never played basketball before. Without this experience, who knows if she would have ever enjoyed it until possibly getting to middle school and giving it a try.”

Morrison went on to say that building that confidence and creating excitement around the sports was the entire purpose of the camp.

A big reason the campers were able to easily enjoy both aspects of the camp was because of the similarities each sport possesses in different aspects.

“A lot of them have had that moment making a connection of something between the two sports,” McClure said. “Once they see that, it helps their confidence grow that they can play both.”

Both coaches said they know how important it is to play multiple sports growing up, and that all of the female sports at their school work together to ensure that happens between basketball, softball, track and field and volleyball.

“We work together so well and encourage our players to play multiple sports,” Morrison said. “Half of my basketball plays either softball or volleyball, and we’ve got a couple that play soccer and do track and field. It makes them a better athlete, but also teaches them to compete in different levels.”

And that goes back to the entire reasoning behind joining the two camps together.

“They don’t know what they love yet,” McClure said. “They’re still trying to figure out the rules of the game. So I think forcing them to choose that young, is ridiculous anyways. There is a lot to learn about each sport, and figuring out what you love about different sports and what you can get out of each sport takes time. You can’t be rash in deciding to focus on one.”

This entire camp wasn’t to help them figure out what they love, but instead to teach them team building and life skills to help them see that they can love more than one sport.

While the first year’s camp didn’t draw the numbers of the baseball camp or what the basketball camp does, this was a baby step in what two coaches are hoping will turn into championship-level program.

“None of this was about money, and our expectation wasn’t to have 50 kids at the first camp for either sport, it was about growing our program and getting young girls interested in playing sports,” Morrison said.