DePaul Blue Demons men's basketball coach Jerry Wainwright has touched the lives of youngsters through a series of free basketball clinics throughout the Chicago area.
Called "Believe and Achieve", the clinics give kids up to the age of 13 the opportunity for some fundamental instruction from Wainwright and his staff. "The purpose is really two-fold, to give back to the community and promote DePaul basketball at the same time," said DePaul assistant director of basketball operations Craig Shaman. "We've received nothing put positive feedback."
Children not only receive basketball instruction, but also learn about what is important in life. "We try to do more of a fundamental approach where we talk about academics and nutrition, more than just athletic ability and discipline," said Wainwright. "It's not a traditional basketball camp."
Through corporate sponsorships, every camper receives a free basketball and t-shirt. The DePaul staff has tried to take their camps into neighborhoods where opportunities for free camps are limited. "We've done a couple on the west side, and a couple on the south side," Jerry said.
Fundamentals in America for boys basketball has become something of a lost art, which is why Wainwright emphasizes the basics through his camps. "Everybody talks about all these international kids having a good fundamental base," Jerry remarked. "The reason is they work on it. Every day they work on their fundamentals. I lecture about repetition and trying to maintain the discipline about doing the same thing every time."
Through the "Believe and Achieve" clinics, the staff has increased awareness of DePaul basketball in the community. "One way to try and get DePaul's name out there is to try to do some outreach," said Wainwright. "This is more of a community outreach than a formal basketball camp. The kids get a couple hours of positive exposure to basketball and exposure to DePaul."
Wainwright is also giving kids opportunities that he did not have as a child himself. "The only thing that I every did formally was little league," Jerry said. "Little league was a little bit different then, there wasn't as much parent involvement. Even when we moved to Berwyn, most of the fathers were working more than one job, to tell you the truth. Back then you didn't specialize in one sport. You went from sport to sport."
The camp has also provided some of the Blue Demons players an opportunity to work with young people. "Normally we have a couple of players," Wainwright remarked. "It's harder to do during the season. Our kids have really enjoyed it."
The camps have helped to get kids interested in the sport of basketball and instill confidence and self esteem. "The biggest thing with young people is to feel good at doing something," said Wainwright. "The younger that you get them, obviously the better."
At a recent clinic in a northern suburb, Kyle Staine, a 10 year old from Bloomingdale, and his eight year old brother Ryan both walked away impressed. "I learned how to eat right and stay fit and how to shoot and how to dribble and stuff like that," said Kyle. "Coach Wainwright was cool. He taught a lot of stuff today. I learned a lot of stuff, I'd like to come back some time."
"I learned shooting," Ryan said. "Coach Wainwright said that I was good."
If it is up to Wainwright he'd like to reach out to more of the Chicago area in the future. "We'd like to expand it," Jerry expressed. "I'd like to do 20 or so a year in the city if I could."
Teaching Kids to "Believe and Achieve"
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