Joe Sanchez is among the varsity head coaches who agree building a strong foundation among elementary and middle school students is the key to a strong and successful sports program.
Believing that, the Payson High boys basketball coach each summer hosts a youth basketball camp open to aspiring players entering grades three through nine.
Tabbed the Longhorn Academy, the 2012 camp held June 11 to 14 drew 55 youths, one of the largest turnouts ever.
“We were very excited with the turnout,” said Sanchez. “A lot of kids had the opportunity to learn the fundamentals and that was our goal.”
The coach contends that if the camps continue to be as successful, “We (the program) are headed in the right direction.”
During the sessions, Sanchez, assistant Bill Farrell, formerly the head coach at Paradise Valley High School, and nine PHS varsity and junior varsity volunteer staffers thoroughly schooled the campers on the fundamentals of the sport including shooting form, ball handling, defense, rebounding, moving without the ball, dribbling, passing and stances.
In teaching the basics, the staff used a variety of drills designed specifically for age groups.
The younger campers learned lay-ups, footwork, ball handling, jump and land and basic cuts.
The older campers — pre-teens and teens — focused more on ball handling and dribbling, basic screens, spacing, post moves, pass and shot fakes and pick and rolls.
Farrell, a legendary coach for whom the Paradise Valley High School gym has been named, has long been a proponent of using the camps to teach more than athletic skills.
He says it is the responsibility of camp coaches to teach youth to do the right things — especially in their young lives.
So, Farrell stresses character development using a philosophy that “they can use in basketball as well as life.”
The youth camps, which are sponsored by the Town Department of Parks, Recreation and Tourism will be held about three times each year — during the fall and spring school breaks and the summer.
Farrell says the camps are a “way to get my basketball fix.”
In addition to Sanchez hosting the Basketball Academy, he also helps oversee high school fundamentals practices, open gym and an upcoming strength and conditioning program.
The fundamentals practices are held 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. each Tuesday and Thursday in Wilson Dome.
Open gym is 6:15 p.m. to 8:15 p.m. Fridays in the dome.
Strength and conditioning began this week and will be held 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays at the Triangle Academy in Payson.
At the Academy, the prep players will be exposed to a type of training somewhat different from the traditional weight lifting and running.
Among the skills taught at Triangle are are jiu-jitsu, boxing, Muay Thai cardio kickboxing, cross training and boot camp.
Randy Steinke is among the academy instructors who Sanchez contends can help his players become more successful.
Steinke certainly has the credentials to be a teacher and motivator.
In 2011 at a National Grappling Tournament in Mesa, he showcased his martial arts skills, battling his way to four first-place medals in four different classes.
Steinke originally fought out of the Panktration Academy in Payson before signing a professional contract in 2008 with Fight Legion, a California management firm.
Steinke was signed by Fight Legion after winning the Rage in the Cage lightweight (155 pounds) championship in Prescott.
His career eventually took him to the prestigious Shoot Brazil championships where he won in the first round, but was eliminated in the second.
Sanchez says he realizes PHS athletes are extremely busy because some participate in others sports, such as football, that require lengthy time commitments during the summer months. Also, some hold down summer jobs.
“But, I hope all our players take advantage of the training at Triangle and the other off-season programs,” he said. “It can only make them better, on and off the court.”