Girls get shot at Coppin camp

Clinic: Instructional setting provides positive role models for participants as well as the chance to hone skills.

June 19, 1999|By Kaija Langley | Kaija Langley,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Barely a week out of school, girls from around the city traded in their textbooks for blue-and-yellow basketballs at the Coppin Center.

More than three dozen athletes, ages 8 through 17, attended the first annual Coppin State College Girls' Basketball Camp this week. For many young players, the day camp was their first opportunity to attend a basketball camp. For others, it was a chance to hone their skills away from the male-dominated neighborhood courts.

Tammy Rogers, a point guard who will enter the seventh grade, hopes to have a future in professional basketball. She picked up her first ball at 6 when she noticed a group of neighborhood boys.

"I'd see boys playing and I thought I could play, too," she said. "I knew if I practiced I would be a good basketball player."

As the youngest starting player last year for Southwestern Academy, Tammy, 12, already has begun taking her career seriously. She is a member of a recreational center basketball team, as well as a player for the Amateur Athletic Union Baltimore Cougars.

Girls like Tammy are at an impressionable age both academically and athletically, in the view of Coppin women's coach Jennie Hall. Since Hall came to campus a year ago, she has made efforts to get local middle-school girls involved in the sport.

"This camp provides positive role models for these young girls," Hall said. "Most historically black colleges and universities aren't in the best parts of town. Seeing black women in coaching and teaching positions gives these players a chance to see beyond their immediate surroundings."

The large gym remained busy with young athletes, who, for a fee of $80, perfected basketball basics: shooting, passing, dribbling, defense. For most of this century, female basketball players have learned the fundamentals by studying their male counterparts. But since the passage of Title IX, women's basketball has been gaining momentum in both popularity and skill level.

Today, top female players finally have a chance to play professionally in the United States. The Women's National Basketball Association, the only professional league remaining now that the American Basketball League has disbanded, is in its third season.

Where there once were no camps for girls, now there are many from which to choose. But attendees at Coppin received more than basketball fundamentals. Through daily guest speakers, they also learned what it takes to play professionally, and about life outside of basketball.

Penny Moore, a point guard for the Washington Mystics, described the trials of trying out with 600 other players for only two open positions. Michelle Richardson, a former Nike intern assigned to the Mystics, stressed the necessity of a college education.

"Not only are you going to be basketball players, many of you will also be mothers, too," said Richardson, a recent Howard University graduate. "So get all four years out of the way. Use them as steppingstones to where you want to go."

Richardson's words reinforced the plans Joy Gorham, 17, already has in mind.

"I've learned that no matter how good you think you are, there is always someone better," she said. "I want a double major, psychiatry and social work. I want to be a psychiatrist one day."

Gorham said she gained interest in the sport by watching and playing with her older brother, and began playing organized basketball in the eighth grade. Although the senior forward at Western High School was one of the most experienced players at the camp, she said it was helping her physical endurance and defensive skills.

Hall, a former professional basketball player with seven years of international experience, hopes this will be the first of many girls basketball camps sponsored by Coppin.

She also offers two free basketball clinics throughout the year and a "Kids' Club" during the regular season. Members can attend all of Coppin's women's home games, interact with female college players and enjoy a pizza party.

"They can walk away believing that they can grow up to be better basketball players, better people," Hall said.

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