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GHANA

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CLICK HERE for the photo album.

Team Members L-R: Keith Byrd, Speedy Wible (leader), Lynn Reinbolt, Connor Hoffman, Caleb Durham, Chris Tompkins, Carson Byrd, Preston Bradley, Blake Newman and Cooper Tarter

FRIDAY'S CLOSING UPDATE Blake and Connor challenged the team that our ultimate purpose for coming to Ghana is to teach young people about true character, more than it is to make basketball players.

We ran Camp 3, Session 3 at the Tesano Court in the morning. We started with a group picture. Then we moved into the basketball drills. It is amazing to see the improvement that kids can make from session 1 to session 3! This program focuses on teaching fundamental basketball skills in a fun, organized and professional manner and the kids really engage and work hard to improve.

One more shout-out to our teenage coaches: they ran these 3 camps with a degree of professionalism, energy and commitment that is impressive. Each of them took responsibility for shepherding a team through camp, as well as teaching a skill station (passing, rebounding, dribbling, shooting, offensive moves, and agility). They each did their part well and with great attitudes.

Some comments that Africans have shared with us:

-From a parent: My daughter is so excited! She has never seen anything like this before!

-From a community leader: We have been talking about starting a sports outreach to our community...this has been eye opening!

-From a visiting Nigerian man who leads a sports outreach: I have learned so much that I can take back to Nigeria!

-From our hosts in Ghana, Vincent, Kwame, and Amos: Thank you so much for coming! It has been so helpful.

After the last camp we drove 4 hours up the coast to Coconut Grove Beach Resort for some down time before the trip home. The place is nice and we were greeted with fresh coconuts. They chop off the top of the coconut with a machete and we drink the milk with a straw. The boys have already enjoyed the ocean, a great meal, and several games of pickup basketball after dinner.

Tomorrow, after some more time relaxing and enjoying the beach, we will tour a slave castle where many of the slaves were staged before being shipped to America. After that we will start the 4 hour drive back to Accra and prepare to fly home. We appreciate your support all week and ask for continued safety in travel.

THURSDAY. Preston and Cooper encouraged us that we were sent here to this nation for a reason and that the strength for the task will be given. They also expressed that they felt that we have worked well as a team, and that we will each be stronger men of character as a result of this trip.

We started Camp 3 today at the Tesano Court with an entirely new set of kids. Some of the kids had been watching Camp 1 all week so they were eager to have their opportunity to participate. The coaches did an excellent job bringing the same level of energy as they brought in camps 1 and 2. It is apparent the coaches are gaining confidence in their coaching abilities (remember 7 of them are age 15-17) and they are becoming more comfortable offering correction and encouragement to the kids. At the end Speedy talked to the campers about the Purpose for our lives, then the coaches took their teams for a small group discussion of Purpose.

This camp is a different format than the first 2 camps in that we have the same campers in the afternoon. In the afternoon session the coaches ramped up the skill challenges and the kids responded very well. Although it got hot, the kids were very competitive in the contests. At the end Speedy talked about the Plan for us, and then each team got to hear from their coach about how they discover the Plan for themselves.

We met a Ghanaian man who just today received his visa to travel to the U.S. and he is moving to Waco to begin a program at Baylor starting August 14th. He currently runs a radio and media ministry in Ghana. (I shared with Keith today that his Aunt who lives in Houston emailed to say she’s been sharing the updates with a dear friend who also lives in Houston. The friend asked where the team was and when she heard the locations, she knew exactly where they are because that’s where she is from! Small world.)

We had a surprise visit at dinner by the host of the TV program that included Speedy and Vincent on Sunday. He expressed gratitude to us for coming and doing what we are doing for the kids.

Overall the team is doing well and is making new connections. The campers often engage our coaches in pick up games after each session. The Ghanaian coaches; Kwame, Amos, Phillip, and Ernest, are awesome!!

Temps have been 80s with an overcast sky much of the time, and very humid.

We had fresh pineapple 2 days, fresh coconut one day, and some of the boys tried "Pepe" sauce but it was way too spicy for our guys. Most of the team likes the drink "Alvaro." It's a carbonated fruit drink--usually in the flavor of either pear or peach.

WEDNESDAY. "Bones" led our team in a discussion on leadership this morning. He reminded us that leading is about serving others and not about lifting ourselves up. He also challenged us that we should model "transparent integrity" -- being the same person in all settings.

In Camp 1 at the Tesano Court, we added some more advanced drills and competitions to challenge the kids and allow them to use their growing skill set. Likewise, the afternoon camp included some new and challenging drills. The coaches enjoyed both camps and made some great connections with the kids. There was a lot of mingling and fellowship between coaches and campers after the camps.

Tomorrow we start a 3rd camp that will run Thursday morning, Thursday afternoon, and Friday morning. We ask for favor on this third camp and the follow up with the kids from camps 1 and 2.

TUESDAY. Chris and Caleb began the day by sharing one of their favorite stories about a man who danced with joy before his master even though his wife despised him for it. They challenged the team to be uninhibited with praise and sharing with the campers today.

Speedy led the team through Camp 1 Day 2 at the Tesano Court in the morning. Almost all the campers returned from Monday, and since the camp is full, there is a large group who came to watch the camp and who Vincent expects to join us for Camp 3 beginning Thursday.

The team had a refreshing lunch, including fresh pineapple that impressed even those who don't normally like pineapple. Over lunch we spent some time encouraging one another. Speedy has challenged the coaches to be purposeful about identifying things we observe in one another and using lunch time to share those things with each other. We also heard from a Nigerian man who runs a similar basketball and discipleship program in Nigeria and drove to Ghana to observe the camp and see what he can learn and take back to Nigeria.

Like yesterday, Caleb led the basketball operations in the afternoon camp. Caleb is doing an outstanding job and is rising to the leadership challenge, as this is his first camp to lead the entire basketball operation. As well, Caleb asked Carson to "take the whistle" and lead the mass ball handling drills for the entire group, thus marking Carson's first experience to lead in the large group setting.

Cooper is teaching offensive moves and is leading a team of 11 campers in discussions by himself. Preston is doing an amazing job coaching dribbling and leading a team, and Chris is coaching passing and leading a team. Connor and Lynn ("Bones") teach agility and lead the youngest group of campers. Blake, as one of the few returning coaches on the team, coaches shooting and he leads a team, plus he handles many of the skill demonstrations and other tasks that require experience.

Each of the 7 teenage coaches is being stretched and asked to do more than they have done before. The 3 adult coaches (Speedy, Keith, and "Bones") are extremely proud of the boys for accepting the challenge and responsibility of coaching basketball skills AND leading conversations. They are doing great!

The response from the Ghanaian campers has been encouraging. They come eager to learn and they showed substantial improvement in the drills from Day 1. As well, the campers are forming bonds with their coaches and trust is being established. In addition, Connor has developed a following of children who are too young to participate in the drills but who adore Connor and follow him everywhere around the court.

MONDAY. On the bus ride to Camp 1, Carson and Keith challenged the team to be mindful of the kind of men they will be among the campers and strive to set a good example.

Although Hoops has been to Ghana several times, this was the first time for conducting camps in the city of Accra. Thus, there was some uncertainty of how it would go.

The first camp was at the Tesano Court. There is a strong emphasis on community there and they are looking to launch a sports ministry as a new connection into the community. The camp was attended by 49 campers who came eager to learn. Each of the coaches on the team (most are between 15 and 17 years old and several are on their first Hoops trip) had a significant leadership responsibility with a group of Ghanaian campers, and the coaches rose to the challenge. They taught the basketball skills with energy and enthusiasm, and, more importantly, took seriously the challenge to engage the campers in meaningful conversations. The team heard very positive feedback from many Ghanaians about the quality of the camp.

After lunch the team kicked off camp 2 with 33 children at a court on the other side of town. The afternoon campers were less experienced in basketball, but gave equal effort and commitment to learn as Camp 1. Once again the coaches rose to the leadership challenge. In particular, Caleb Durham took the "whistle" and led all basketball operations in the afternoon camp. As in the morning, each of the boys leads a "team" through the camp activities as well as coaches an individual skill station (shooting, rebounding, passing, etc...). In addition, each of the boys led a small group session with their team where they talked about their "Purpose" in life.

Both camps went very well and the campers seemed to enjoy it. The team looks forward to returning tomorrow for day 2.

An additional blessing to our team is the numerous Ghanaian coaches who came to Accra from Kumasi to help. They are invaluable in helping with communication and cultural issues. One of the Ghanaian coaches was a camper himself on one of the original Hoops trips, and it is gratifying to see him now in leadership giving back. It is an incredible privilege to assist these men in their vision by conducting these camps.

Sunday afternoon, our host, Vincent, and our team leader, Speedy Wible, performed a live interview on a Ghanaian national sports TV station in which they got to talk about the vision for using basketball. The program aired live on Sunday and was rebroadcast on Monday!

SATURDAY. Speedy reports that the Ghana team arrived safely in Accra late this afternoon. Of the 19 pieces of luggage, only one personal bag was delayed. Hopefully it will arrive tomorrow.

The team made good use of the 5 hour layover in London to get to know one another better. The boys are already having a blast together. Speedy said they finally slept on the last leg of the flight, but were way too excited to sleep on the first one.

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CLICK HERE for the photo album.

Saturday, July 30

We are glad to report the Ghana team made it safely there along with all their luggage! They will spend the night In Peduase and travel to Kumasi tomorrow mid morning for camps to begin on Monday.

Sunday, July 31

The team had a great day meeting family and friends in Peduase. We saw several kids from prior trips.

We met a team from Chicago who wanted info on Hoops for Hope, which we gladly shared. We learned that the center in Peduase started a basketball program and had just finished their first camp. How exciting to hear how the program is being multiplied! We also visited a center in Accra who just built a court so they can start a sports program. We met the director who said they are willing to build courts in many other sites in Accra.

We stopped at the Wilshire court on our way to Kumasi and blew up 250 basketballs, which took 2 hours. Then we drove to KPoly and walked through the camp structure. We got to the hotel at 7:00. They had beds pushed together in 4 of the rooms so they had to remake the rooms into twin rooms. We ordered dinner at 8:00 to be ready at 9:00. Caleb got his plate at 10:39. Everyone is tired and in bed.

We are hoping for good weather and a smooth first day.

Monday, August 1

Tim & Aaron encouraged the team to be prepared for the day. Tim challenged them to be relational. He enjoyed reuniting with the kids he coached last year, rekindling the bond between them. Aaron shared how neat it is to be there doing the good work prepared for them to do.

After last night’s fiasco of dinner delays (some received their meal 2 and a half hours after it was ordered!), the team pre-ordered their breakfast last night. When the team arrived in the dining room this morning at 6:30A, their meals were prepared and waiting for them. Many enjoyed omelets, toast, oatmeal, and coffee and tea. They left for their respective sites at 7:15A; Mark and his team to Wilshire Court, and Speedy and his team to Kumasi Poly Technical College, fondly referred to as Kpoly.

The Wilshire Court was lined with kids at 7:30A; 60 who were registered and anxious for camp to start, and another 50 hoping to get in. They divided the kids into teams (6 teams of 10 kids, 8 girls and 52 boys) and started with mass ball handling. At the end of that portion of the camp, Mark shared with them that this was the best first day mass ball handling ever! The kids knew the drills from having been taught by the Ghanaian coaches who are doing an outstanding job, and that was very exciting!

The court was crowded with that many kids, but the coaches were careful to keep their teams together. Sarah E had the girls and did an excellent job with them. Tim had the oldest boys, Aaron the 2nd oldest, Connor the youngest, and Philip (a Ghanaian coach who began as a camper in prior HFH camps) and Jacob had the boys in the middle.

After mass ball handling, they worked quickly through stations, again very familiar with the drills. They had to make some adjustments with the shooting portion of the contests since there were only 4 goals. The coaches were flexible and everything ran smoothly.

After the morning camp was over, the Wilshire team was taken back to the hotel for lunch and rest. That time was very much needed.

The afternoon camp also had 60 kids, waiting and ready to go. This time, Connor had the youngest girls and they just adored him. Sarah had the oldest girls and did well with them. Tim, Aaron and Sarah were wonderful demonstrators. Jacob bonded well with his team as a father figure. Mark was very pleased with his team; they worked so well together. He was also tickled to see the girls encourage each other when one would do well. Norm was an outstanding team dad, serving as a runner for whatever was needed, fetching stray balls, interjecting where he was able, and being helpful at every turn. He was so creative in hanging the banner too. You will notice in the pic that he tied the banner to the tall grass towering over the block wall! He is a tremendous asset to the team.

Speedy’s team arrived at the Kpoly court at 8:00A with their own set of 60 kids anxiously awaiting the HFH team to arrive! The team quickly set up for camp and divided the kids into 6 teams of 10 kids; 40 boys and 20 girls. He was very pleased with his team as well. Caleb, Yogi and Sara N are veterans of the HFH camps in Ghana. They set the tone and showed the first-time coaches, Blake, David and Gabe, how to coach these kids and they caught on very well. The coaches led well and the kids responded well to the instruction and had a blast.

Translators were needed to communicate with these kids in their native language. Stephen and Godfrey, young campers when Speedy coached there in 2011, are now coaches and translators themselves. “This just turns my crank,” Speedy said. Stephen and Godfrey did an outstanding job to move things along as fast as possible, although a certain amount of time is lost in the translation process. They were also able to correct the campers since they knew the drills so well.

Kpoly is too far away from the hotel for them to return each day, so they relaxed in a work out room on campus. It wasn’t air conditioned but it wasn’t hot either. They were able to debrief before they started the afternoon camp.

The 60 kids registered for the afternoon camp which began at 2:00P were standing in line waiting at the court at 11:00A. They were so excited!

Speedy noticed that Yogi’s and Sara’s girls’ teams would clap for each other and encourage each other. That’s the kind of team spirit we look for. Caleb, Gabe, Blake, and David did an excellent job with the kids too.

It was a great first day! It was in the low 80’s today and overcast a good portion of the time. Very pleasant indeed. Definitely cooler than Texas.

Tuesday, August 2

Sara Neumann and Sarah Ellingson challenged the team today to stay focused despite any distractions, such as heat and language barriers. Stay on task.

Breakfast was late today, so several on Speedy’s team rushed out the door with only toast from fellow teammates. Needless to say, lunch was especially tasty and welcomed.

When Mark and the team arrived at the Wilshire court, the perimeter was lined again with the 60 returning campers and 40-50 bystanders. They were at the camp early again today. In fact one kid was there since 6:30A waiting for camp to start at 8:00A!

The kids know the drills so well from working with the Ghanaian coaches that the mass ball handling portion went very quickly. They worked through the stations and were able to add new drills to the mix. They caught on so well!

The coaches added some relays as part of the contests today and they kids went crazy over that. Qwame, director of the Wilshire Court, shared that he wants to incorporate those new drills into their repertoire.

Tim, Aaron & Sarah do a great job of demonstrating. The coaches are connecting very well with the kids. The girls just love Connor, tussling his hair and asking him to please come back next year. I think he’s having fun too.

Aaron shared that Jacob, his son, went through the HFH camp in June 2012 in Los Altos, California. (We worked with Steve Durand and joined Highland’s MOTION team.) It’s the neatest thing that Jacob is now going back through the camp as a coach!

The van driver who took the team back to the hotel yesterday at lunch had to deliver the meals to the Kpoly team, and that’s about an hour’s drive. So the Wilshire team only had a 30 minute break today.

In the second camp, filled with the same 60 campers from yesterday, it also went very well. During team time, Mark sensed that the kids weren’t understanding what he was trying to say. They asked him to continue to speak in English, but the time is too precious to waste on not understanding. One of the Ghanaian coaches translated for him.

Speedy and the Kpoly team arrived 15 minutes early today to the court. (For some reason, the travel to the site took 45 minutes yesterday and only 30 today.) The 60 kids were there anxiously awaiting the team to arrive and camp to start. They were full of energy and glad to see the team when they pulled in.

Today went smoothly, typical of a second day. Kids catch on quickly to the routines and work through the drills and stations in a shorter amount of time. This does allow for some additional drills, but the disadvantage at this site is the need for translators. Speedy has to be mindful of whatever he adds that he only has half the time for the drill. The other half will be spent in translation. Caleb suggested ways to be more efficient with their time and Speedy agreed and made the changes. He is very pleased with his coaches, the veterans who are more and more comfortable each day, and the new ones who are improving each day. Gabe is very energetic with the kids. Yogi had never taught the NBA combine, but today, she and Stephen (the Ghanaian coach) nailed it. All his coaches have a better understanding of the drills and are ready for each one in a minute’s time.

He can see the relationships deepening, evidenced by the kids hanging around during breaks and after camp to talk with the coaches and hanging onto them. It’s a sweet sight to see.

Speedy had several conversations (and sometimes involvement) today with friends at Kpoly, such as the local school PE coach. He knows all the girls and encourages them regularly. He was thrilled to see what we are doing with the kids. Also included was the director of education at the school and the professor at the college. It was very encouraging to know the people in key positions in the education system are wanting better things for the kids of their community.

There was more cloud cover today making the weather very comfortable. The sun came out for 15 minutes at the beginning of the afternoon camp at Kpoly and Speedy thought it might actually be hot. But thankfully that was short lived. The clouds rolled back in and it was nice.

Wednesday, August 3

Today was absolutely beautiful! It was cool with an occasional mist blowing through. There was a fairly consistent cloud cover making it a perfect day to be outside playing basketball.

After Gabe and David challenged the team to remember what really matters, the teams headed out to their respective camp sites.

Once again, the campers were eagerly awaiting at the Wilshire Court. Sarah Ellingson led mass ball handling in the morning camp, and Tim McManis in the afternoon. They did an outstanding job, proving that they are camp leaders in the making.

The kids went crazy for the contests, especially because it was the last opportunity to show how they had improved. Jacob and Tim switched up some aspects of their stations, adjusting to meet the skill levels of their teams. Mark was amazed at how this camp has evolved to suit the kids.

The afternoon camp was very similar to the morning one. They seemed to come alive today, maybe because it was cooler. They loved the competitions, bang ‘em, and relays.

Norm has been an incredible Camp Dad! He has done whatever was needed, including listening when Mark wanted to talk through a change he wanted to make. He is a huge blessing!

Speedy said the day was AWESOME! He was so proud of his coaches. Each one hit the wall at different times throughout the day but they pressed through the tiredness and stayed in the game.

Speedy was so proud of Sara Neumann running the agility station. She was persistent with the kids, taking them on Monday where they could hardly get through the length of the ladder making each step to today, dribbling a ball while going through the ladder. She spent 7 minutes daily for 3 days encouraging the kids and it made a big difference. Blake and David are great at adapting their stations to the skill levels of the campers. They had great conversations with their teams in small groups. Gabe was described as deep water with a still surface. He coaches consistently and energetically. He’s a self-starter, taking the initiative to do anything he notices that needs to be done. Speedy is proud of all his coaches. They were prepared to bring basketball with passion and interact with the kids in team time. Each one was responsible and teachable. Great team!

Caleb Durham (CD) had command of the whistle in the morning camp and did a good job running mass ball handling. In the afternoon, CD accepted the whistle again, this time running not only mass ball handling but competitions. He did a great job managing the teams. Later, he commented that he was frustrated with some of the coaches for doing their own thing and not listening to him. Then it hit him; that’s me! It gives one a whole different perspective being the leader of the camp versus leading your team. By the way, Speedy took CD’s team and loved interacting with the kids, something you lose when you’re the one with the whistle.

Mark and Speedy surprised the coaches with pizza for dinner instead of going to a restaurant. Of course, they loved that! After debrief, they all headed to bed.

Tomorrow, Mark and Speedy will switch locations so they can both experience the sites. The coaches will stay at the same location. The 3rd camp tomorrow will be the same group of kids in the morning, afternoon, and Friday morning.

Thursday, August 4

Breakfast was on time and delicious today, so the team started off on the right foot. CD and Blake challenged the team before they headed out to remember that this is new for the kids. Don’t lose your excitement because it’s familiar to you, but bring your passion and energy for the kids.

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