Storm Assistant Coach Shelley Patterson with her pupils from the Harbour Island all-ages school. Courtesy Shelley Patterson

Teaching Hoops in the Tropics

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Dear Storm fans,

I know you sometimes wonder what coaches do in the off-season. I bet you think we sit around and get fat (that may be true) or watch TV all day (that may be true too once the collegiate season is on the way). To be honest with you, I never stop thinking about basketball. Well, the start of this offseason was a little bit different for me. This is my story.

About 100 miles off the southeast coast of Miami lay the pink, sandy beaches of Harbour Island. The first capital of the Bahamas greets you with a welcome sign: “Home of the Friendly People.” Harbour Island is a diverse international community with about 2000 local residents and 600 winter residents living in a space one mile wide by three miles long. It's a place where iPods, X-Boxes, and PlayStations have captured the youth, but their love for basketball is evident and can be seen on every sleepy corner and backyard dirt court. Makeshift baskets made of milk crates and tire rims are surrounded by screaming kids fighting for possession of one ball. Even the Vic-Hum night club has a basketball court in the middle of the dance floor where you can play basketball until 6 a.m.

I have been visiting Harbour Island for more than a decade now, but this off-season I decided to donate my time to the local children in this small island community and teach them a little basketball, “USA style”.

There are two schools on Harbour Island, the Dunmore School (a private school) and the Harbour Island all-ages school. I started with the Dunmore School teaching a couple of P.E. classes, which of course was Basketball 101. The kids ranged anywhere from 7-13 years of age. In the heat of the day on a worn concrete, lopsided outdoor basketball court with the Atlantic Ocean as my backdrop, we started our class with basic fundamentals: Triple threat, jump stops, pivots, ballhandling and passing. The kids were very excited and receptive to learning and playing the game. They are an eclectic group of youngsters from different backgrounds all residing on this beautiful island.

Once class has been completed for the Dunmore School, it was off to the Harbour Island all-ages school where the junior girl's basketball team gathered for a little advice from a WNBA coach. Basic fundamentals were the name of the game for this group as well. Although a little bit more advanced than the first group, I still concentrated on the little things.

The best part of my experience was to see the improvement of the kids from one week to the next. To see the excitement and the joy of a young player who has tried and succeeded at something new and different puts a smile on my face. You never know where the next WNBA or NBA player may be hiding. They may be right here on this little gem of an island.

So, until the next time, keep those balls bouncing and never look back. The future is right in front of you.

Shelley Patterson

A group picture with students at the Dunmore School. Courtesy Shelley Patterson

In addition to learning basketball, the kids had a great times. Courtesy Shelley Patterson