Model girls’ basketball coach Sally Echols remembers being a camper at the Big Blue Basketball Camp back in the early 1990s.
Today, she’s glad to be the director and one of the instructors, seeing group after group of campers continue to enjoy the long-standing tradition like she did.
The girls’ camp, for kindergartners through eighth-graders, ended Thursday at Model High School with 159 participants from several area schools including Armuchee, Berry, Coosa, Rome, East Central, Cedartown and Calhoun.
While the event was conceived and takes place at Model High School, it’s impact and tradition is felt well beyond the Shannon community limits.
“It’s fun for all communities,” Echols said. “We really did enjoy it, and it’s just an opportunity to experience the game in a fun and exciting way. Big Blue is a part of our school’s history, but goes beyond Model High School.”
The camp was originally started by former Model coach Milt Travis back in 1986, before former coach Andy Aiken started a girls’ camp soon after. The boys’ camp, which will take place next week, is headed up by Milt Travis’ son and current Model boys’ coach Jacob Travis, who also participated in the camp when his father started the event.
Echols, who led her team to the Class AA Final Four this past season, said the camp is more than just learning about the sport. It's about building relationships.
“It really is a special part of our community, and it’s much bigger than Model,” Echols said. “I remember when I went, some of my best summer friends went to Armuchee and Rome. Some of those friends I made at Big Blue in ’91 I’m still friends with. It’s a unique opportunity for girls who like the game to come together, have fun and learn more about the game, but more importantly build relationships.
“I know it was a special part of my basketball career and I hope it will be with this group as well.”
Guest speakers at this week's event included Coosa girls’ basketball coach Robby Dooley, who was an assistant at Model for 14 seasons alongside Echols before taking over the Lady Eagles program last season. Dooley and Berry women’s basketball coach Thomas Johnson discussed the theme of leading by example to the campers.
The event was instructed by the Model high school coaching staff along with middle school and community coaches, as well as former Model players.
Former Darlington standout Anna Claire Atha — a Big Blue alum who now plays for Wofford College — was also among the instructors, as was former Model player and Georgia Tech student Rachel McFry.