Basketball a way of life for Pippen, Academy campers
Six-time champion and Hall of Famer Scottie Pippen recently hosted a five-day camp at the Bulls/Sox Academy, focusing on the game’s fundamentals and teaching off the court lessons
By Adam Fluck | 07.07.2011
Photos courtesy of Sarah Prange (Bulls/Sox Academy)
When Scottie Pippen was growing up in Hamburg, Arkansas and learning the game of basketball, he didn’t have the opportunity to attend summer hoops camps because his family couldn’t afford it.
It wasn’t until his junior year of high school that he was able to participate in a basketball camp, which is exactly why he understands the benefits for younger players.
“Basketball is such an escape from a lot of things,” said Pippen, who recently hosted his own five-day camp at the Bulls/Sox Academy in Lisle, Illinois. “It can keep kids out of trouble, but more importantly, working in the summer can keep young players on track and help them develop good skills and good habits.
“The more basketball they can play and the more repetition they get in, the better they’ll become,” added Pippen. “Basketball is a lifelong game. You continue to learn from the game day in and day out, and all along the way, you get better.”
From June 20-24, Pippen and the Bulls/Sox Academy’s coaches implemented a camp curriculum which focused on basketball’s fundamental skills: ballhandling, defense, free throws, footwork and rebounding.
“Having Scottie here is the pinnacle of what we could ask for as a group,” said Larry Stewart, General Manager of Basketball Operations. “And selfishly for me, being a Bulls fan for most of my life, as long as I can remember, it means a lot. Having watched him play and progress into a Hall of Famer, and for him now to be involved with the front office, it was a joy and a pleasure to have him working with the campers at the Academy.”
Pippen appeared at the Academy daily to work directly with the players on and off the floor. The camp was open to boys and girls ages 6-10 for three hours each morning, followed by another three hour session for the 11-17 year olds in the afternoon. A total of approximately 130 campers were in attendance.
“It’s always been a passion of mine to come out and share some of my knowledge about basketball and the experiences I’ve had with the younger generation,” said Pippen. “The kids came into the camp with a lot of energy and excitement the first day, which I enjoyed. As the week went on, they started to get a little fatigued, but I definitely saw a lot of improvement across the board, which was the main goal.”
Improving on and off the court
During Pippen’s camp at the Bulls/Sox Academy, which opened in 2001, basketball was the key component of everything, naturally. But as Pippen and Stewart both agreed, there was an emphasis placed on something other than the game’s fundamentals.
“Given the campers are children, it’s important to deliver a message to them every day,” said Stewart. “It generally touches on peer pressure and keeping a positive attitude, as well as how to get along with others and listening to your parents. We try to make sure that they go about things on and off the court the right way and try to wrap it all in over a five-day period.”
For Pippen, who has four young children—three boys and a girl—at home himself, helping the Academy staff deliver those messages came easily.
“It’s not always about getting better on the basketball court,” Pippen told those in attendance when he addressed the morning group on the camp’s first day. “This game teaches you how to become a better person as well. It pushes you into the team concept.”
Stewart, whose twin boys attended Pippen’s camp, took it one step further.
“Basketball is life,” said Stewart. “So many of these kids see basketball as an opportunity to one day go to the NBA or play collegiately. But that’s not realistic for everyone and that takes care of itself. What I’ve found in the 11 years I’ve been here is that the young men and women who have come through here develop into better people.
“You often see the immediate gratification of a young player going to the NBA after just a year of college, but the bigger part of it is all of those players who move into the workforce like everyone else,” added Stewart. “They work for prominent companies and build families of their own. A lot of times along the way, they relate back to their experiences here. I’m very thankful to be able to help in providing that foundation, even if they don’t play in those advanced stages of basketball.”
At the end of the week, Pippen was pleased with his first camp, as was the Academy staff.
“It’s probably the single most special camp we’ve done, based on having a person of his magnitude here to offer his advice and instruction,” said Stewart of Pippen.
And while Pippen has entertained the thought of possibly coaching eventually, the experience didn’t push him any closer to it, he said. It was rather an opportunity to reach out to a fan base, albeit a younger one that included many campers who hadn’t seen him play.
“I tried to share with them a little bit of everything,” said Pippen. “A little bit about life and what they can take from the game of basketball. Defense was my expertise, but basketball is a game with a lot of different pieces to it. We try to teach them ballhandling, as well as rebounding and passing. Every facet of the game is important to try to learn at this stage.
“The campers came in on Monday and when they left on Friday, our hope is that we helped make each individual not only a better basketball player, but hopefully a better person in general. It made for a fun week,” added Pippen.
For more information on Bulls/Sox Academy camps, lessons and programs, visit www.BullsSoxAcademy.com or call 630.324.8221.