Winning coach: It’s about reaching youngsters

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, December 1, 2009

By Mark Wineka
Andrew Mitchell lived a coach’s dream this year.
His girls basketball team at Salisbury High School won the N.C. 2A basketball championship.
But Mitchell’s efforts to reach young people every summer through the Bobby Jackson Basketball Camp may mean more to the community.
Mitchell sees basketball as a vehicle to reach young people and teach them about things more important than sports.
“There are a lot of hurting youngsters out here,” Mitchell told a large audience Tuesday at the Mayor’s Spirit Luncheon at Salisbury City Hall.
“We can reach and touch them in a lot of different ways รณ they’re hungry, they want to be trained.”
Last year for the first time, Mitchell and other community organizers expanded the annual Bobby Jackson Basketball Camp to include workshops and programs on necessary life skills; the dangers of drugs, alcohol and gangs; character development; social etiquette; communication; sportsmanship; and religion.
Before the camp was expanded to include these kinds of things, Mitchell met with Mayor Susan Kluttz to explain his ideas for this youth initiative. The city became a partner in the program.
Kluttz recalled how she and Councilman William “Pete” Kennedy attended the Sunday banquet that wrapped up last summer’s six-week program for boys and girls.
“I can’t describe to you how impressed we were,” Kluttz said.
When Mitchell led the Salisbury High girls to the state basketball championship, Kluttz added, “Frankly, we were not surprised.”
A longtime friend of Jackson, a Salisbury High graduate who has played in the National Basketball Association for 10 years, Mitchell said Jackson “is all about kids.”
The men are focused on making things better for children in the Salisbury community and giving them “opportunities we did not have,” Mitchell said.
The expanded basketball camp included handbooks for coaches, parents and players to make sure everyone was on the same page and shared the same goals.
The price of the camp for those who could afford it was $50 per player, and Mitchell said he hoped the money could go into camp-supervised accounts for the children and serve as a way for them to learn about banking and saving money.
Livingstone, Salisbury High and the city’s Hall Gym provide their facilities to the camp at no cost.
This year, coaches for the camp will begin meeting April 14-18. Registration for players will begin April 23. June 12 will be the date for opening ceremonies.
Workshops lined up so far will focus on sportsmanship, communication and some of the dangers in Internet access.
Mitchell said other aspects are still in the planning stages.
“We welcome any and all advice,” he said.
Also in attendance at the Mayor’s Spirit Luncheon were four members of his high school team, which will be honored at next week’s Salisbury City Council meeting.
Mitchell said the five seniors on the team will all be attending college. He thanked the team, their parents, assistant coaches, ministers and church members for all their support during the basketball season.
Kluttz presented Mitchell with a key to the city.
The Covenant Community Connection partners with the mayor to put on the luncheon, which is held twice a year on the same day as Habitat for Humanity fundraisers.
The CCC is a subgroup of the Salisbury-Rowan Human Relations Council, and its activities provide forums for interaction among different cultures, races and religions.
The CCC will be host for the annual “Let’s Get Connected Day” at Dan Nicholas Park May 16.
The event starts at 11 a.m., and the community prayer will take place at noon.