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Drive and Determination

By Jack Bridgeford, 2016 team member

Today started with a lovely 7am wake, or 7:30 according to “Nigerian Time”, which I happily likened to. We then ate, received a great devotion from Nathan, and set off for Uniben. Today was the first full day of camp as well as the first empowerment session. Part of A2S camp is learning about things that will assist as you grow in life and face more challenges. Its faith-based life skills that the kids may not all feel they need but after a little push, are more than willing to accept and understand. Some of the older kids have started to realize that basketball will only take them so far and they need these sessions to prepare for their future. This is especially true as the topic this year is Entrepreneurship.

Dan, Nathan, and I had the first session of empowerment with the boys group, while everyone else put the girls through drills and games. I want you to imagine taking over 200 high school and middle school age boys together and telling them they’re going to discuss entrepreneurship for 3 hours. Then I want you to imagine an actual miracle scenario in terms of behavior and that’s what we had. The kids were tremendous. They not only sat and listened for all that time but they engaged and interacted as well. I walked out of their smiling knowing that: One – we had done some good, and Two – that President Barack Obama could speak to American students of that age for 3 hours and they would have not behaved nearly as well as these young men and women.

After this the camp ate lunch provided by Daddy himself, or as people outside of his circle call him, Pastor Ben. After all of the students were properly fed the camp made its switch where the guys play basketball and the girls go to the empowerment sessions. I am fortunate enough to have the knowledge to provide simple corrects and tips to help mold their talent. Although the best part is seeing how desperately these kids want to learn. I can’t even begin to remember the number of kids who have come up to me asking what it takes to make basketball a career. These young men and women have a drive and determination unlike anything I have ever seen.

One kid in particular came up to me and said that he wanted me to watch him play and give him pointers on his game. My response was simple, everyone on the court is constantly in a rush, so if you want to stand out, slow down and make smart decisions. He seemed to take it to heart but it’s nearly impossible to apply that knowledge when the local coaches constantly are yelling “attack attack!” or “you’re too slow, go faster”. I realized that this was my opinion versus the entire Nigerian basketball culture so I held my tongue and just kept watching.  Looking back though, it seems to be a metaphor for life. In a world where everyone wants you to “attack!”, if you don’t slow down, make smart decisions, and have fun along the way, you will make many sloppy errors.

As we closed camp, all of the Americans were immediately mobbed for hugs, handshakes, and pictures. The amount of selfies I’m tagged in floating around Facebook right now is alarming. We closed with a prayer and we were on our way. We ended our adventures today as we do everyday with a fantastic meal that is literally force-fed to us by Pastor Ben. When it comes to seconds or thirds, “no” is not in his vocabulary. But we enjoy the food and his company to help us unwind.

Today taught us many things, but for me the one that stuck out the most was how much this camp and our being there means to these kids. This is something they wait all year for, something that gives them memories they will keep forever and we cannot take that for granted.

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