While hardwood play was the name of the game at the recently completed Longhorn Basketball Academy, the 28 young campers were actually learning more important lessons of life.
Bill Farrell, academy head, intertwined into the basketball curriculum lessons about respect, responsibility, citizenship, character and resourcefulness.
During his decades-long basketball coaching career, which culminated in 2005 with the Paradise Valley High School gym being named in his honor, Farrell was known to be dedicated to developing athletes as good citizens, not just as basketball players.
Hence, his Longhorn Academies contain healthy doses of old-fashioned values like hard work, resourcefulness and wit.
During the four days of the Academy, which began Oct. 8, Farrell stressed the fundamentals of the sport to the young campers using what he calls “traditional” approaches. Others might label his strategies “old school.”
No matter what the description, Farrell, and the PHS varsity basketball players who assisted, stressed proverbs like, “There is no ‘I’ in team” and “A chain is only as strong as the weakest link.”
The purpose of using the ages-old proverbs, Farrell says, is “to teach a philosophy they can use in basketball and in everyday challenges.”
While the academy didn’t draw the field of 70 third- through eighth-graders that earlier camps have attracted, Farrell labeled it a complete success in not only teaching young people, but also developing a culture in Payson in which basketball is not just a sport, but a way of life.
The low numbers, Farrell and town officials say, was due to a mix up in the availability of Wilson Dome and the existence of a science camp occurring the same week.
The Town of Payson Parks, Recreation and Tourism Department sponsors the academies twice each year — during the school district’s winter break and also during the spring recess.
Town Recreation Leader Mary Wolf and Department Director Cameron Davis helped at the camp directing players through skill drills, contests and games.
The camp culminated yesterday, Thursday, with a parents day in which the campers showcased the skills and new attitudes they had acquired during the four days of the academy.
Coaches also doled out some awards to those campers who had excelled or won games and contests.
Of the games played, campers seemed to enjoy the classic basketball clash of “bumpout” or knockout that highlighted Wednesday’s session.
During Farrell’s coaching career, he was the state’s boys basketball coach of the year in 1995 and 1997 and has won numerous regional coach of the year honors.
At Paradise Valley High School, Farrell’s teams won two titles in three seasons in 4A, taking the 1995 and 1997 championships. The 1997 team finished 29-2 while the 1995 team went 29-4.
After retirement he and his wife moved to Payson.