Learning the Fundamentals of Basketball and Life

Department: Athletics

By Kekoa Taliaferro ’99

This past June, Punahou School hosted its second annual John R. Wooden Course Basketball Camp, the only camp in Hawai‘i to feature the skills and philosophy of the late legendary UCLA men’s basketball coach.

From June 4 – 7, 2012, more than 130 basketball players ages 6 to 16 gathered at Hemmeter Fieldhouse to strengthen their fundamentals and learn about the self-discipline and competitive excellence Wooden promoted through his coaching. Each day, participants worked on their hoops game and developed new insights that can benefit them for life.

Most of the boys and girls at camp were not familiar with Coach Wooden, who led UCLA to 10 NCAA championships from 1963 – 1975, racking up a record 88 consecutive wins. Wooden’s coaching philosophy, The Pyramid of Success, has become an important part of his legacy. Today, Coach Craig Impelman, Wooden’s grandson-in-law, continues to share Wooden’s philosophy, technique and training with young players around the world. Impelman, affectionately called “Coach Imp,” kicked off the camp by emphasizing that the Course is not simply about basketball, it’s about life. With the Punahou basketball coaches, Impelman selected one of Wooden’s sayings as the camp theme: “The more concerned we become over the things we can’t control, the less we will do with the things we can control.”

Players often have a difficult time understanding how this concept applies to them, but Impelman used a variety of teaching methods – including skits and role-playing – to make the material come alive. The skits, lighthearted but meaningful, addressed issues of self-discipline, perseverance, peer pressure and how to treat teammates. The camp underscored some of Wooden’s other pithy maxims, such as “Adversity is your asset,” and “Perform at your best when your best is required. Your best is required each day.”

The more concerned we become over the things we can't control, the less we will do with the things we can control." – John R. Wooden

Ka‘aha McAfee-Torco ’12, member of the 2012 state champion Punahou boys basketball team, has helped with the camp for the past two years. He remembers attending last summer and the effect that it had on him, saying “My attitude before was not good. But going through this program changed my attitude toward basketball. Because of that, I wanted to give back.” The camp has had a similar effect on some of McAfee-Torco’s classmates, including Reina Furuya, Courtney Kaneshiro, Demi Coolen and Jeff Yamashiro, who also worked as counselors this past summer.

The John R. Wooden Course Basketball Camp is something that Punahou is fortunate to host because it blends perfectly with the School’s mission to provide an environment that will benefit students in mind, body and spirit. Campers sign up to work on their basketball skills, but take home life lessons, just the way Coach Wooden would have wanted.

Kekoa Taliaferro ’99 is head coach of the Punahou girls basketball program.


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