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A week of fun and competition allows players to develop and receive collegiate instruction

GRAPHIC PHOTO: GARY ALLEN - Full-court games were eagerly anticipated by campers at the GFU girls basketball camp.

Nearly two-dozen girls from Newberg and the surrounding area gathered last week at George Fox University for a weeklong basketball camp.

Skills development, competitions, five-on-five games and fun sidebars were all part of the camp, which was run by the women's basketball program's new assistant coaches.

New GFU coach Michael Coppolino enlisted the help of his assistants for this endeavor while he continues to make the move from New York to Newberg. Among those leading the camp was assistant coach Lauren Hayden, who comes to GFU by way of Virginia.

"Our camp was really successful this year," Hayden said. "The girls have a lot of energy, which is always great for a new coaching staff coming in and hosting a camp. We've had a lot of fun and done a lot of learning."

Hayden played college basketball at Division III University of New England before getting into coaching. She's been an assistant coach for three years and this will be her first with the Bruins.

She has had a chance to meet and work with some of the GFU players, including a freshman class that was an integral part of running the kids' camp.GFU players make up the majority of the coaching staff at the youth camps.

"We had four of our incoming freshmen helping out, which is a great introduction to the program and community for them," Hayden said. "They are excited and nervous about going to college, so giving them this opportunity to get acclimated is great for them as well and the kids benefit by learning from these college athletes. They've been really good role models for the campers."

Camp days typically started with station work on the fundamentals of basketball – be it shooting, dribbling or passing – preceded by some stretching and warm-ups.

After that, the real fun began, with some playful competitions followed by five-on-five games – which Hayden said the campers were itching to play.

Lunch was provided and the afternoon was spent with more games and competitions, along with discussions about academics and life outside of basketball.

The value of those conversations is immeasurable, Hayden said, because it prepares girls for the life of a student-athlete similar to the players at GFU.

"It makes me happy to grow the game and see young girls get better and have fun with basketball," she said. "I think the family atmosphere at camp was tremendous as well. A lot of the girls are friends and they come into camp and make new friends, too."

Most of the girls at camp were 11 or 12 years old, Hayden said, but the youngest girl this year was just 8. Older campers rallied around her and were helpful, which warmed the coaches and college players' hearts as they saw the 8-year-old grow by "leaps and bounds."

The focus of the new women's basketball coaching staff is to maintain the winning tradition at GFU, but community events like the annual youth camp are what connects them with the community.

Ultimately, Hayden said, the camp is about having fun.

"It's a safe space for girls of all skill levels to grow as basketball players, athletes and people," Hayden said. "We try to teach the fundamentals, but have fun with it so everyone can feel welcome."

More information on next year's camp can be found at under the women's basketball tab.

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