by Matthew Antonic
KANSAS CITY, MO -- As Wes Lyon looked across the court at the Triple Crown Youth Skills Camp, he was beyond thrilled with what he saw.
The energy levels were high. Smiles were everywhere. Voices were audible, despite the fact that the Kansas City Convention Center courts were rapidly filling in preparation for the Triple Crown National Invitation Tournament.
The camp gives younger age groups unique instruction from prominent coaches, including Lyon, the director of Club Munciana, and winner of multiple national championships with his Chipmunks teams.
However, Lyon wasn’t at the camp for cutthroat competition; he wanted to see the young players get repetitions to improve their fundamentals, and was pleased by the effort he saw.
The most demanding part of the camp came during a defensive drill designed to develop endurance and attitude. The players did a set of mountain climbers before springing up into a defensive formation as the ball was immediately served to them by a coach. It wasn’t easy, but the drill was performed in stride.
“We’re trying to put that defensive mindset in their heads,” he said. “Defense is attitude, and you’ve got to work hard and be willing to sacrifice.”
Kaysie Shebeneck, an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator at Bradley University, said many of the drills done during the camp are variants of what players will see at all levels as they get older.
“I coach college and I know our girls have done similar things, just variations,” Shebeneck said. “It’s all to build the same fundamentals and work on the same skills they’ll use in later competition.”
Not only did the drills emphasize fundamentals, they also emphasized teamwork. For some of the players, Lyon said, this was their first venture into the world of competitive skills camps and tournaments.
“One thing I was really impressed with, and I told them at the end, their energy and their effort tremendous,” Lyon said. “For 13 and under, sometimes that can be kind of hard. They’re not always used to being around people they don’t know, they’re not used to being in a big environment like this, but I thought they had a really good attitude about wanting to get better.”
“It’s a fun atmosphere,” Shebeneck added.
In learning to adjust to the competitive environments of major tournaments, one of the most important aspects to drive home for young players is communication on the court.
“I want to hear people talking,” Lyon could be heard shouting as players went through their drills.
The girls obliged. “I go! I go! Mine! I got it!”
When the courts are surrounded by cheering spectators and the matches start to mean more, it’s settings like the skills camp that can be extremely important in a young player’s development. And if Lyon and Shebeneck have anything to say about it, they can also be fun.