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Thunderhoops celebrates 25 years (3 photos)

This year, the coaches at the basketball camp will be prepared for 600 kids over the course of three weeks at the East Bayfield Community Centre

One of the largest basketball day camps in Ontario celebrates 25 years this summer and hopes you’ll be a part of the landmark year.

Thunderhoops Basketball Shooting Camps began in 1993 as a one week skills camp with approximately 60 participants coming out that inaugural year. This year, the coaches at the camp will be prepared for their usual 600 kids over the course of three weeks at the East Bayfield Rec Centre at 80 Livingstone Ave. in Barrie. Marty McCrone and fellow camp director Paul Hopper are the two founders of Thunderhoops and have been with the program from day one. McCrone says that looking back over the years in the 25th anniversary; a few things really stand out.

“Music has always been a big part of the camp and we have gone from playing CDs, to MP3 players, to now cell phones,” said McCrone. “It is also really cool to see people who were campers here now being coaches or having their kids playing; that tells us we’re doing something right.”

The year that Thunderhoops started there was only a half day camp operating and McCrone said that he knew Ontario needed something more. A full day would be more educational to the kids and a better situation for the parents who could drop the kids off and enjoy their day. As a parent McCrone knew that if families were paying money to have their kids taught basketball, it should be fun, educational and worthwhile.

“We wanted to make sure that this wasn’t just some camp where kids were dropped off like babysitting because parents could do that elsewhere,” said McCrone. “Thunderhoops was and always will be about teaching the skills needed to be a better basketball player and better person, and the parents appreciate that. As for the kids, they want to learn but it needs to be fun too. We have many drills and games happening everyday and we’ve moved away from the old station-to-station aspect; that gets very repetitive and boring which will have kids tune out. We now have little mini-competitions that are fun but really teach all the basics and then some while being played.”

Both McCrone and Hopper are Barrie guys who attended local elementary and high schools. McCrone won some GBSSA’s, played at OFSAA and eventually went off to York University and currently holds the record as the oldest male to play in the CIS when he was 35. While he has seen the game advance leaps and bounds since his playing days, a fact he credits the Toronto Raptors for in a big way, McCrone knows that in Simcoe County basketball may take a backseat to the national game until you give it a try.

“This is Canada and hockey is just a huge part of the fabric,” said McCrone. “But basketball has long been a favourite sport of many and it’s definitely a game that has huge popularity, especially around here with the Barrie Royals club. We see new kids wanting to try it and have so much fun learning it; and parents love seeing the kids becoming better teammates as the lessons continue.”

Thunderhoops camp is still accepting new players of all experience levels as well as anyone looking to get involved with coaching should give McCrone or Hopper a call. McCrone loves that there are basically two camps every year, one for the kids and one for the coaches.

“We break off into groups based on grades and from there the kids start the learning process,” said McCrone. “All the while the coaches are teaching and some who are new are learning how we coach; it’s important we’re all teaching the same process but just also in slightly different ways, if that makes sense? Kids learn differently and coaches teach differently as well, in the end everyone is learning and having a blast doing so.”

Thunderhoops camp has three weeks and runs from as:

Week 1 - Monday, July 2 to Friday, July 6

Week 2 - Monday, July 9 to Friday, July 13 (sold out)

Week 3 - Monday, July 16 to Friday, July 20

For more information and how to join, check out the website.