The summer program started by Coach Fred Shelton over 40 years ago continues this week, as the Marshall County High School girls basketball team hosts its annual Team Camp Monday through Thursday.
"Until I was 10, my dad coached here, so in the first years of my life, I just ran around here," says David Steely, head coach for girls basketball at Marshall County High School where he was found Wednesday doing that and so much more.
The summer camp for girls basketball teams attracted 18 teams, mostly from Middle Tennessee with Science Hill being the most distant school. It's all about experience on the court, Steely said. Summer fun plays a part. Even if that's a player's goal, the practice leads to better play.
It's also a good place for college scouts, says Steely who led his team to second place in the state's Class AA girls basketball rankings.
"Lambuth College [a small United Methodist Church liberal arts college in Jackson, Tenn.] had a scout here," Steely said. "They'd get to see 18 teams play."
A couple more college scouts were anticipated Thursday, Steely said Wednesday.
Steely, 36, is the son of Coach Don Steely who continued the summer camp from his predecessors.
"It was started by Coach Fred Shelton in the 1960s," Steely said. "And every coach since then has conducted the camp. We had, maybe, a couple of years when we were switching coaches and may not have had camp, but we've tried to keep the tradition up.
"I've lived here my whole life. This is my alma mater… I kept the clock when I was little. I refereed as I got older and became assistant … and took over as head coach about eight years ago, and we've had camp ever since.
"We're here to focus on our team because we've got big goals," the coach said.
He acknowledges that victory on the court is one of them, but clearly there's an eye for how that's accomplished.
"Players get into situations on the court that they'd not been in," Steely said of the summer camp games. "With this, they may be able to respond better next year.
"You can't replace game experience," he said.
The teams camp out on the gymnasium floor at the high school and dine in the school's cafeteria and pretty much eat, drink, and sleep basketball the entire time. The clocks keep running during the games and there are no extended half-times in order to keep things moving. Recreation staff served as officials for the junior varsity games while TSSAA officials called the varsity games.
Other teams attending the camp include "some of the bigger-name programs" such as Smyrna, and Bradley, Lawrence and Jackson counties' teams. They played from about 8 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Friday.
"There are a lot of places like this, but it wasn't always so," Steely said. "When Coach Shelton started it, I think it was the second in Tennessee" to offer summer play for basketball.
"It's just about getting the players experience if they're looking to step up next year," he said.
Steely estimates there were as many as 350 people participating during the week-long summer camp for girls basketball here.
Coach Steely said he was looking forward to working out his team, which includes 13 returning players (he didn't lose any seniors to graduation last year). He has six freshmen joining the squad this year as well.
The Class-AA runner-ups last year expect to face tough competition again this year from both Lewis Co. and Giles Co., and Lewis Co. was participating in the Team Camp.
Community writer Beth Leftwich and senior staff writer Clint Confehr contributed to this story.