First Shot president Andy Herzer, a former MTSU coach, works with campers on their dribbling skills. Photo by Ken Robinson
This week is a special one for a group of local kids as they spend their fall break from school at Patterson Park.
Former MTSU men’s assistant basketball coach Andy Herzer hosted the fourth annual First Shot Patterson Skills Academy this week. The camp focused on learning life lessons and character building exercises in many different forms.
“We learn how to work hard and stay focused in school,” Oakland Middle eighth-grader and long time camper Shay Rankins said.
Most camps of this magnitude only focus on becoming better basketball players. However, Herzer wanted to take a new path when he started this camp a few years ago.
Don’t worry, basketball is a big part of it, but he also knew the realities of the situation these kids face growing up. So he wanted to give the students a chance to learn valuable lessons from many subjects, which they can use later in life.
“Out of the 75 kids that are here today,” Herzer said, “only one of them will get a college basketball scholarship. If that’s the odds, what are we doing to help the other 74 to succeed? Not giving them other things in life that they can learn to love and be passionate about means we failed. I think it is about all of those things. If they can learn to express themselves in written thought, they are going to be ahead of the guys that they go to school with. If we invest in there weaknesses and make them stronger, we have a better community.”
Each day starts out with a character building exercise, and then the students are broken up into groups depending on their age. Five different stations are set up, which focus on art, music, creative writing, dance and basketball. For Rankins, her fellow classmate Brandon Thomas and the rest of the age group, music was first on the list of act ivies.
They spent time learning to play a bongo drum, along with other instruments trying to keep a beat. It seemed that everyone in the group was having fun and learning some music at the same time.
Thomas’ reason for coming to the camp for the fourth consecutive year was simple.
“I did not have anything to do at home, so I just came here,” he said.
So far, he was enjoying every minute of it.
After the music lesson was up, it was time to change stations. For the eighth-graders, it was time to head to the gym. Some of the group went to one side of the court to play a spirited game of basketball with boys versus girls. Thomas, Rankins and one other person was on the other side of the court learning valuable shooting lessons from Herzer.
“Every year is always fun and coach Andy (Herzer) is always teaching us something new,” Rankins said.
One of the main reasons Herzer keeps holding these kinds of events each year is the opportunity to give them a chance to succeed.
“These are the kids that have nowhere else to go,” he said. “They show up against a lot of different odds. All of these kids want to get better, just like we all do.”
For any child who spent their fall break from school attending the camp, it could be the starting point to a brighter chapter of their life.