Steinbrenner players become coaches at basketball camp
Steinbrenner basketball players Olivia Unger, Rachel Briere and Taylor Thigpen work with Justin Dugan and Lexie Wingerter at the Steinbrenner summer basketball camp. PHOTO FROM AUSTIN O'TOOLE
BY Jeff Berlinicke Special Correspondent
Published: June 26, 2013
Updated: June 26, 2013 at 01:36 PM
LUTZ - The Steinbrenner girls basketball team can take only so much of their coach. Every once in awhile, they admit to tuning out JR Allen, a man many dub the nicest coach in the county. And it is understandable - after a nearly 30-game season, plus almost year-round practice, anyone's message might get a little old. This summer, the Steinbrenner girls are getting an idea of just how frustrating - and fun - it can be to coach. The returning Steinbrenner players are the coaches for Allen's popular summer camp. More than 100 kids are attending and the girls are running the show. Very quickly, the high school girls find they are learning as many lessons as the students.
"It's hard to listen to the coach all the time," said Taylor Thigpen. "But I have a lot of respect for Coach Allen and what he does. It seems like it is so easy, but teaching kids is something I've never really experienced. They roll their eyes at me sometimes and they drown me out. It's more than I thought." Steinbrenner's girls basketball team reached the state playoffs once again last year, showing just how far the Warriors have come in the program's five years. And in that time, some of the girls have been molded into leaders, thanks to the lessons learned during the camps. To the outside observer, these camps may look like chaos - the camp itself is split between two campuses, Steinbrenner and neighboring Martinez Middle School. But to Allen and his Steinbrenner team, it is order. Older campers stay at Steinbrenner while the younger campers are next door, with Allen going back and forth in a golf cart, keeping his eye on everything. Allen admits that working the camp has many hidden lessons. "It's a challenge to find new ways to challenge them, but I think they are listening to me," he said. For example, it is now the high school team members who must try to discover new ways to be heard, learning that - maybe like them - kids want to play ball, not listen. "It gets frustrating sometimes, so I know how Coach Allen must feel sometimes," said senior Olivia Unger, whose younger brother attends the camp. Junior Rachel Briere also admitted to a new respect for her coach. "Now I know what it feels like to have to coach kids like us," Briere said. "I have never yelled at the kids, but I have wanted to. Coach Allen doesn't yell at us and I've learned a lot about that from him. It's all about respecting your coach."