Hoops camp offers chance to play, learn
From: The Contra Costa Times
By: Sean Kent, Correspondent
All any athlete can ever ask for is a chance. Whether it’s the Butler basketball team coming within inches of winning a national championship, or a career minor-leaguer finally getting his shot with a major league team, the toughest part is just getting the chance.
Even if they’re not successful, they can at least be content knowing that they had a legitimate opportunity at their dream. While athletes at the highest levels yearn for championship glory, children with special needs strive simply for the chance to play.
One youth basketball camp in Pleasant Hill hopes to offer these children the chance to excel among their peers who face the same physical limitations. Simply called the Special Needs Youth Basketball Camp, the clinic is open to anyone ages 6-14 and scheduled to take place on three consecutive Saturdays beginning May 1 at the Oak Park Christian Center Gym.
The only fee is a $30 donation (which includes a T-shirt) to United Cerebral Palsy of the Golden Gate, which is sponsoring the event.
The camp’s main motivating force is Doug Senz, a longtime scorekeeper and assistant basketball coach at Miramonte High School in Orinda. For him, the cause is extremely personal. His son, John Scott Senz, suffers from cerebral palsy and has limited use of his left side. For a father who has been involved with sports for so many years, he soon searched for athletic opportunities for his son. He was disappointed with what he found.
John Scott’s limitations weren’t severe enough for him to play in a wheelchair basketball league, but when he participated in “normal” CYO games he received a sort of patronizing sympathy from opposing coaches and players.
“When he gets to play in CYO,” said Tom Blackwood, retired Miramonte boys’ basketball coach and longtime family friend of the Senzes, “people let him shoot. They don’t play him to their full ability because of his handicap. I always hoped Doug could find a program where he could succeed.”
Frustrated, Senz sought to find a place where his son could play with other children who had similar limitations. When he found no solutions, the only alternative was to start his own camp.
With the support of UCP, Senz was able to recruit some of the best high school coaches in the East Bay including Blackwood with his 38 years of experience, Berean Christian coach Don Menez and Pat Ertola, head coach at Alhambra and a former assistant to Blackwood. Unlike a lot of other youth sports camps that have been created in recent years, this one aims to focus on the basics.
“Some of the kids may be able to do more, some may be able to do less… I think from a basic standpoint, we just want to teach them to understand the game,” said Ertola.
“We’ll have adjustable hoops,” Senz said. “We’ll also teach modified methods for passing and dribbling. We’re really going to try and individualize it to the kids’ needs as much as possible.”
For those parents who might be hesitant about enrolling their child, Senz reiterated how accessible the camp is going to be. No prior basketball experience is needed to participate. Children with any sort of physical limitation, no matter the degree or severity, can be accommodated. There is no deadline to sign up, however, some advance notice is needed to determine T-shirt quantities and sizes.
Senz and the group of coaches hope that if they get a good turnout for this first camp, subsequent events can be held and possibly even evolve into a larger league. But for now, they merely seek to offer these kids a chance to succeed.
“It would be great to give these kids an equal opportunity to excel on an equal playing field,” said Blackwood. “Even if they play in ‘regular’ leagues, it offers them another opportunity, another experience to play.”
Special needs youth basketball camp
WHEN: May 1, 8, 15, 2-4 p.m.
WHERE: Oak Park Christian Center Gym, 2073 Oak Park Blvd., Pleasant Hill
FOR MORE INFO: Contact Doug Senz at 925-890-8088 or firstname.lastname@example.org