A Chance to Give Back

Photo by Randy Whetstone Jr. | Contributing Photographer

Photo by Randy Whetstone Jr. | Contributing Photographer

After enduring a rough and what seemed to be rigid upbringing in Southwick and Cotter Homes Projects, Derek Anderson was able to turn his adversity into an advantage. In his words, “I still never lost focus on me being a good person.” About growing up an orphan and homeless, he says, “Knowing that I could be polite to people and respectful, and getting a good job to take care of myself, that helped me get out of all those situations that I was in.”

Years later, he made the most out of his basketball opportunities. From a high school all-star at Doss High School to a National Champion in 1996 with the Kentucky Wildcats, to finally holding an NBA title with the Miami Heat in 2006 and to kissing a gold medal in representing the U.S. at the Olympics play, he  chooses to use his reputation for good. “If I can grab your attention with that,” he says. “Let me help you with another means, and that’s life skills. That’s what I focus on, and that’s what I will always do.”

Kids from ages 7 to 17 have gathered around Anderson each summer for the past 12 years for his annual week-long summer basketball camp. Through Stamina Basketball Camp, young players acquire the endurance and fortitude to make it through challenges not just on the hardwood, but in life as well.

Louisville Collegiate School was the host site for this year’s Stamina Camp, June 22-26 from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. with $175 tuition that included lunch, free t-shirts and a career poster.

This year, Anderson limited the number of campers to only 80 in an effort to interact with each child. It was a joy to him to be able to  engage with campers both male and female of various ethnicities.

“Knowing their names matters to these kids. When you say their name, they know that you are not just overlooking them. If I can’t do that, I don’t feel comfortable. Knowing that I can do that with any race or religion, I’m able to relate to you as a person. I love that. It makes me smile everyday I go home. I say, ‘Man, I spoke to so many different people and so many different kids and they all look up to me’ – and that means something.”

The campers gathered to play basketball for five days, but the camp spurred the campers to be successful beyond sports. Life skills are what were truly developed and nurtured throughout the week. Specifically, “attitudes when things are not going well,” Anderson says, was the most highlighted life skill. “These kids go home to either a good situation or a bad situation as far as their home life and structure. There are no bearings on how you act.”

Now, during this phase of his life, Anderson says that impacting lives and making people better are his sole purpose.

“Every year is special because what we try to teach people is how to be good kids and how to do good deeds for other people. It is building up their character first,” he said. “Basketball is fun, and it is an enjoyable sport. I was blessed to be able to get paid for it, but I would have done it if I didn’t get paid. That’s the thing these kids need to see. You’ve got to have a passion out of life. My life passion is to help other people. Basketball is fun, but it is also a means to help someone else be better. I still enjoy that part of it.”

Moving forward, Anderson will start a foundation for youth that enables them to have a firsthand experience on a college campus where campers learn to speak with one another, clean up after themselves and learn how to get a job.

“My foundation is going to be based upon making sure that I generate a future for us. I don’t want the president to have sagging pants, to have a criminal record that is a mile long, and we say it’s okay. We want to avoid those things and make people better. You can go to college and get a degree, but if you don’t have life skills, people won’t hire you. They don’t understand that. If you are nice and polite, people will help you. So for me, I want to make sure we do that.”

Youth were able to leave this camp with the keys to unlock stamina in their own life.

“Self-accountability, self-discipline, self-worth and not being selfish are the keys to a great player and person,” he concludes. VT