Where we were…
Basketball Smiles was birthed in the spring of 1999 when Coach Sam Nichols from McMurry University and Coach Patty Johnson from the Commonwealth of the Bahamas met in San Jose California at the Women’s Basketball Coaches Association Convention. A mutual love for basketball and children between these two coaches led to the first Basketball Smiles basketball camps in June 1999.
The vision of Basketball Smiles was born: to conduct free basketball camps for boys and girls of all ages, and, along with basketball instruction, conduct a life skills program for these disadvantaged children emphasizing citizenship, education, and self-discipline. The initial camp had only 75-80 boys and girls in attendance, but it was obvious to Coach Nichols that they were on the right track.
After that first year, Coach Nichols developed the motto of Basketball Smiles: “We bring a week of smiles and hope through basketball.”
Where we are now…
Over the years, Basketball Smiles has grown to where over 300 children are annually served through the project. Since 1997, over 10,000 children have been served through Basketball Smiles.
These basketball camps are free, and open to children of all ages. The camps are held on outdoor courts in neighborhood areas. These neighborhood areas are very poor, and many of these children would not be able to attend any basketball camp if a fee were charged.
In addition to basketball instruction, the camps present a Life Skills program that emphasizes citizenship, education, and self-discipline. In 2011, Basketball Smiles began to provide academic materials to teachers and school administrators of schools in these disadvantaged neighborhoods to facilitate specific academic tutorial programs to assist students.
In 2014, as part of the Basketball Smiles emphasis on academic excellence, Basketball Smiles began to provide school backpacks for every camper in an effort to encourage better homework efficiency.
Coach Patty Johnson from H.O. Nash Jr. High School continues to be the Bahamian Coordinator for Basketball Smiles. Coach Johnson not only coordinates the basketball camps, but works with Bahamian school officials to where Coach Nichols and his staff conduct in-service training for elementary and high school physical education teachers, and Coach Nichols regularly speaks at several school assemblies during his trips.
During camp each camper is fed a nutritious meal daily and ice and water is provide the campers to keep them hydrated during the tropical heat.
We now average 12-14 coaches from the U.S. who volunteer their time and raise their own expenses to comprise the staff during Basketball Smiles Camp. We have grown to where Basketball Smiles may very well be the largest free Basketball Camp in the entire Caribbean!