Girls’ Basketball Camps No Longer a Novelty

When I was growing up, I lamented the lack of opportunities for girls and would have loved to hone my skills at camp. The summer after my freshman year at Illinois State University, ISU, I complained to my friend, Sterling High School Coach Phil Smith.

“I found a camp for you to go to,” Phil said.

“They don’t have girls’ basketball camps in the area.”

“I know—it’s a boy’s camp. Lee Frederick’s One-on-One.”

The first day, Phil made sure the boys would let me participate. I lined up behind the guys who were a head-and-shoulder taller and 40 pounds heavier than I. I learned how to spin, dribble behind my back and between my legs. I developed Kareem Abdul-Jabbar‘s sky-hook. The boys beat me every match up in the one-on-one, but I never gave up. At the end of the week, the guys took home their medals and trophies; I left with bruises and a bunch of new moves.

“Girl, whatcha been doin’?” Charlotte Lewis, our six-foot-three, one-hundred-eighty-pound, All-American Olympian center, said that next season. “I can’t stop ya no more.”

The day I beat Charlotte one-on-one, I knew I’d earned my starting position.

Phil, ahead of his time, suggested we start our own local camp. McKinzie-Smith Girls Basketball Camp was born and ran for a decade. The first year, we handed out t-shirts with the words BASKET printed above an image of ball and awarded a trophies of male figurines shooting hoops. No one minded; girls were too happy to be having their own court time. Then we became more sophisticated, developing a better t-shirt design. With Phil’s business sense and coaching knowledge, our camp grew successful. In later years, we called it Lead Up Camp focusing on developing individual skills much like they do in camps now.

Today I am astounded at the smorgasbord of choices available to girls from team camps to offensive skills camps, to specialized position camps, as well as elite camps and AAU camps and dozens of others. A few examples: Little Dribbler Camp (pre K to 3rd grade) Hittin’ The Hardwood Exclusive Basketball Camp (3rd through 8th grade) Breakthrough Skill Development Basketball Camp  

Even with all the options available, I would still recommend attending my alma mater, Illinois State University, where girls’ camps have been held since the mid ‘70s. Stephanie Glance, Coach of the Year Missouri Valley Conference, and Jamie Russell (Rock Falls star and transfer from Wisconsin) who became the All Valley First Team Newcomer of the Year, are sure to offer valuable tips.

My other top choice, University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point camps run by the Wisconsin Intercollegiate Athletic Conference’s most decorated coach, Shirley Egner.

Posted in education, inspiration, relationships, social view, sport.


  1. I certainly wish I would have had those opportunities. I was a shy, girly girl and I think participating in a team sport would have opened my world. Enjoy your summer, Pat!

  2. And now there is even a camp for women over 50 years of age! The Not Too Late basketball camp is held each summer in South Portland Maine. This year it will be held August 2-5. It is three days of well-coached drill stations and 3-on-3, half-court games. I stumbled on it when I was complaining about my lousy shot and was heard to say, “I need to go to camp!” Someone saw this on the web and told me about it. I’ve been playing women’s senior basketball ever since (6 years now). Oh, and I really should mention that my 50+ team, the Massachusetts Miracles knocked the Maine teams out of their title of National Champs last summer at the Senior Olympics! Go jockettes of all ages! 🙂

  3. Love your story of triumph, Pat! I am happy I was able to experience watching my own daughter thrive on the courts throughout high school and college. Now she is keeping up with her sons on the fields and courts and teaching them a few tricks along the way! Yes, I also wish I could have played team sports but I’m thrilled that the young women of today have that opportunity.

  4. Pat, thank you for sharing these memories and recommendations. I enjoyed learning about your challenge as well as the start your camp. I am inspired to put my butt in gear and start putting my programs into place.

  5. Pat-
    You know how much I enjoy reading your “prose” your stories just flow:)
    You are a for real champion of basketball!
    P.S. Thanks for keeping me accountable with the book- keep asking because I’m prone to procrastinate:(

  6. Sista,
    I remember I loved the Illinois State bball camps back in HS days!
    Great fun, great sport and great learning of skills! Not sure I ever sweated so much as in that hot “old” gym playing ball 3 times a day!
    We have come a long way Baby. Thanks for blazing the way for me and all the other sisters! 🙂

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.