The Camp Tour Reflection

By Zack Freesman

I’ve now been home for a little over a week and have had an opportunity to process the whole experience. What an incredible journey I went on. The Camp Tour was very exhausting, but an experience that I would do all over again tomorrow if I could. I highly recommend putting together a journey similar to mine to all aspiring coaches. It is a great way to network as you meet most of the staff from that school as well as all the other camp coaches. Meeting people is a huge benefit from working camps, but it is the effort you put in afterwards to develop sincere relationships that truly makes the difference. Just the other day, I mailed out 25 hand-written letters. My hand was burning at the end of a few hours, but when someone sees that you took the time to write a letter and pay for the postage, that shows you are interested in that relationship. There aren’t too many coaches that are initially going to reach out to me after a camp but I would bet a majority of them contact me with a phone call, text, e-mail, or letter back after getting my mail. At the same time, you have to realize how busy these coaches are, especially the ones that are on the road recruiting for a good part of July. The student assistant that worked the day camp at their school isn’t their first priority. After understanding that, it’s a pretty neat feeling when the phone rings or buzzes and it’s one of those guys.

I touched on the networking benefit of working these college camps but there is no doubt my favorite part is the friends you walk away with. I had mentioned one friend in particular that became a full-time division 1 assistant but the job wasn’t official yet when the blog was written. I’m so excited for Alex Ireland as he is currently on the road recruiting. The Alcorn State assistant coach was previously a GA at Valdosta State and we met working camp at Florida. A perfect example of a hand-written letter came from Alex. The day I got back to school at UNF, there was piece of mail waiting for me from Alex. I met several people this summer and walked away with so many friends. The funniest interaction came with Nate Laing, simply because of the connection we already had. His dad was the head coach at Campbell, and his top assistant was Bobby Kennen, who is currently the associate head coach at North Florida. A lot of people in this business know a lot of the same people, but when you are that close, it’s pretty cool.

The next seven paragraphs are going to include a short highlight from each school I visited and a little bit about each camp. It’s interesting to note that while each camp is similar, they do things a little bit differently from one another that makes them unique.

LSU is extremely lucky to have Zach Kendricks on their staff. He’s a known commodity in Baton Rouge as he is working for his 3rd head coach. Usually, that doesn’t happen but he is there for a reason. I can’t even put into words the effort he made to get me into camp. The difficult part was that the dorms were completely booked and there wasn’t a place for me to stay. Furthermore, I contacted him very late in the process after another school bailed on me. Fortunately, he worked and worked and was able to arrange sleeping conditions for my 7 night stay. I worked both individual day camp and the team camp in Baton Rouge. The camps were extremely organized and well-ran.

After driving through the entire state of Mississippi, I eventually arrived in Memphis. The four day individual camp ran smoothly and efficiently. Each age group had their own gym and their own schedule. I rarely saw any other groups as we were able to focus on our own kids. I felt like the kids that week really got better as ample time was spent on stations and skill development. My favorite aspect about Memphis was definitely Power Hour. This took place after camp and was open to anyone, whether they were participating in day camp or not. For a measly $7.50, kids could get a college-level workout ran by Coach Josh Pastner. I mean, come on, this is a no-brainer. I would have been at every power hour if I lived in that area growing up.

I had finally heard what a father/son camp was, but I was excited to see it in action. I will come right out and say it – The University of Kentucky is the best place for that camp. There were 600 participants and they came ready. Watching grown men run around a gym asking 18 year olds for autographs was definitely a little strange the concept of the camp is outstanding. Like I mentioned in the blog, I would have dragged my dad to that whether he wanted to go or not. Being able to bond on the basketball court by participating in various drills and contests against other duos is a great experience for a father and son. This is definitely a camp I will look into running one day. The numbers didn’t get much smaller when the overnight camp kicked off the following day. It was a cool experience being in that environment and trust me, those people love their CATS!

Tennessee Tech was one of my favorite stops simply because of their staff. I have a really good relationship with their DOBO, GA, and now former manager. They did me a huge favor when one school bailed on me. I would be stuck in the middle of the country for three days and have nowhere to go. I immediately started looking for camps that ran those available days with somewhat close proximity and came right to TTU. Although they handed us two losses last season, I was very excited for my trip back to Cookeville. While on campus, I assisted them by officiating team camp. It was an incredible scene as nearly 100 teams participated in the event.

My drive to Raleigh was longer than I anticipated, but it was another great camp. North Carolina State is home to the nicest campus that I saw of the seven schools. In addition to the modern campus, they housed everyone in what I still am arguing is a hotel. I live in a very nice dorm at UNF (it’s the one with the lazy river in the backyard) but I’m convinced this was actually a hotel. The key was a card and the rooms were unbelievably nice. The best thing this camp did was end by playing “Cut-Throat”. It is a 3 on 3 game that every camper is involved in and is built up throughout the week. This way, when parents show up for the end of the session and the awards ceremony, 90% of the campers aren’t sitting down watching. By doing this 100% of the campers are participating. Remember, you have to sell the camp to the parents too, and this is a perfect tool to do so.

Maryland would serve as the final overnight camp that I would work. For those of you that don’t know what this means, the campers stay overnight and the job is never ending. Bed checks are at 11pm and wakeup for breakfast is at 7am. Sleep is limited at these camps; don’t forget those 30-45 minutes daily to write my blog. The staff at Maryland made me feel welcome right from the start. They also ended camp with a coaches social. I was surprised more camps didn’t do this as it is a great way to interact with the other coaches outside of a basketball environment. Camp flew by and it was time for my final destination.

I was beyond exhausted by the time I arrived in Richmond, but I was also very excited. This was the one camp I had circled on my calendar and built my schedule around. If I had to pick one highlight from the Camp Tour, it would definitely be going for dinner with Coach Wade. Being able to sit down and talk basketball with someone I look up to on and off the court was awesome! As far as camp goes, they ran a smooth operation with an interesting twist that I had not yet seen. The afternoons consisted of 15 minute segments where the campers were always rotating between games and competitions. Rather than participating in 45 minute activities, this system kept campers and coaches alert and engaged. I’m looking forward to my trip back to Richmond as North Florida travels to VCU this season!

I mentioned this at the beginning of the reflection but I will say it again. I wish I could do this experience all over again. It was an incredible journey that has already opened up so many doors. I made friends, I started building relationships, and I was able to teach the game I love to kids around the country, literally!

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Zack Freesman

Head Student Coach North Florida Responsibilities include equipment management, assisting with team travel, and film exchange. Previous camps worked: Florida, Florida State, Central Florida My dream is to coach basketball at the collegiate level. Grew up in Weston, FL. Attended Cypress Bay High School where I played basketball - 2012 graduate.

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