FREMONT, Oh. — It’s complete chaos in the Fremont Recreational Center.
A mass of children, ranging in age from kindergarten to eighth grade, cover the rec center’s two basketball courts, running amok in a sea of green and white t-shirts that read “Cahill Basketball Camp” across the front.
The pitter-patter of dribbling basketballs echoes off the walls, while still-developing jump shots are hurled aimlessly at the rims spread out across the courts.
Meanwhile, a small group of parents sit on the sidelines, taking the two hours they finally have free to read, push their infants around in strollers or do other time-killing tasks.
Suddenly, a voice, still scraggly after forgetting to bring a whistle to camp two days earlier, rises above the noise.
“Alright everyone, over here,” the voice booms.
The chaos stops for a second. Soon, the hoard of children rushes over and gathers around former IU women’s basketball star Amanda Cahill, who stands on one corner of the floor, dressed in the same green and white attire as them.
The third and final day of the Cahill Basketball Camp has begun.
One might say Cahill is in her element at the camp, and not just because she’s back on a basketball court.
She’s spent most of the last eight years of her life on a court. It started back in her days at Clyde High School, just a little over eight miles away from the Fremont Rec Center in Clyde, Ohio, where she led the Fliers to a 99-6 overall record during her four years and was named the Ohio D2 Player of the Year three consecutive years.
Then came a four-year career at IU, in which Cahill started all 135 games of her career, finished fourth all-time in points, second in rebounds and third in 3-point field goals, eventually helping lead the Hoosiers to a WNIT championship during her senior season.
However, what makes her job as a coach at the Cahill Basketball Camp right up her alley isn’t the basketball.
It’s the teaching.
As she leads the campers through stretches, ball-handling drills and stations on how to correctly cut and screen, Cahill, an elementary education major while at IU, always has a smile on her face when helping the kids.
“I love working with kids,” Amanda said. “That’s something I want to do the rest of life being a teacher. You teach them stuff, but they teach you stuff, too, so it’s just fun being around them.”
Cahill’s father, John, Amanda’s former high school coach at Clyde and now the head boys’ basketball coach at Fremont Ross High School, started the camp last year without Amanda, who was still playing at IU.
Now, with no summer commitments in Bloomington for Amanda, John let his daughter take center stage running the camp, which lasted from June 3-5, while he was managing summer practices at Fremont Ross simultaneously.
“It’s really her camp,” John said. “It’s called the Cahill Basketball Camp, but in reality, she’s the attraction here.”
In a way, even without John running the show, his influence is evident. As the kids attempt to hone in on their fundamental skills, Amanda constantly shouts out words of encouragement.
“Good job everyone,” she yells as the campers circle up, doing ball-handling drills. “Do your best. Working hard, I like it.”
Every small inflection of Amanda’s voice reminds John of himself coaching his daughter back in her days at Clyde.
“Even her speech patterns sometimes are like mine,” John said. “We’ve been together a long time, so it’s cool to see.”
However, John isn’t the only coach Amanda takes inspiration from.
Each day, as the campers surround her before drills start, Amanda opens with a “thought of the day," a tradition she picked up in Bloomington from IU Coach Teri Moren.
Day three’s thought was a simple message — "You don’t get much done if you only work on the days you feel like it.”
It was a sentiment not only the kids, but Cahill, as well, can take to heart. When the campers are eventually split into groups based on age, each group presents a different challenge and approach for her and the other coaches.
She can’t pick and choose which ones she wants to work with. She has to be prepared for all of them.
In a matter of minutes, Cahill goes from teaching the more-advanced eighth-graders how to screen and cut away, to a group of rascally kindergarteners swarming over to give her a hug.
“How old are you?” a little boy, struggling to pay attention to Amanda’s basketball lesson, asks out of the blue.
Little does he know she’d be turning 22 years old three days later.
“Are you married?” a little girl asks.
It gets a quickly-responded “no” from Amanda.
Some things, such as questions about marriage, can’t be prepared for on a practice-planning sheet. Yet, Cahill handles everything along the way with poise.
“You come up with all these plans for camp, but it’s one thing planning them and another thing actually doing it,” Amanda said. “I think it makes you realize that you need to plan better and actually go out and carry out what you set your mind to.”
Even for the parents that sit on the sidelines during camp and watch their kids practice, Cahill’s knack for coaching and teaching is obvious.
Deanna Harris, whose 12-year-old son, Braylon, attended the camp, said even though her son has played a lot of basketball already, he gained some much-needed experience and lessons from Cahill’s coaching.
“She really loves the game,” Harris said. “You can just tell by watching her out there.”
When the final whistle of this year’s camp blew, Amanda walked off the court with mere remnants of her voice remaining, tuckered out from one final game of knockout against some campers, which she of course won.
But it was more than just her love for the game that had gotten her to that point.
“I think it’s important for our area and our area’s basketball,” Amanda said. “I’ve always mentioned throughout my career at IU how fortunate I am for where I grew up. The people around me have been so supportive of me the past couple of years and while I was growing up, too. I love coming back and just helping out.”
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