ELKHART — The sounds of cheering and chatter mixed with the dozens of dribbling basketballs and squeaking sneakers.
It put Lindsey Steffen at ease. It was a sure sign that her first basketball camp was a success.
“I was nervous,” she admitted. “I was really nervous at the beginning.”
Steffen, a 2010 NorthWood graduate and Tolson Center intern, was charged with planning Tolson’s first-ever girls’ basketball camp, no small task for a college basketball player who had never hosted anything like it.
For a while, she only had five sign-ups. Then the names began to pour in. In all, 35 third through eighth grade girls ran through drills on Friday, Aug. 2.
A half-dozen former area girls’ basketball players — like Khadijah Moore of Memorial, Anna Heck of Concord and Ariel Easton of South Bend Clay — joined Steffen to teach the girls passing, shooting and ball handling.
“I think this is something that I thought about as an older player, reaching back to the community,” said Easton, who is Steffen’s cousin. “I would love to have things other than AAU programs to come out to do.”
Easton, who grew up going to summer basketball camps at Bethel College and Notre Dame, believes that basketball camps at Tolson offer something colleges cannot.
“I think these girls look up to lots of players in the South Bend-Elkhart area,” she said. “To have us interacting with them on a personal level will inspire them.”
Easton saw herself in a lot of the campers, that young player with a hunger for the sport.
“You can see the fight in most of them, in their eyes,” she said. “You can tell they just want to be there. I remember when that was me.”
The girls weren’t the only ones learning on Friday. The typically shy Steffen, who is entering her senior year at Holy Cross and is the top scorer on the women’s basketball team, knows that this camp will help her on the court as much as it will help the girls she mentored.
“I’m actually coming out of my shell and not being so nervous because I feel more like a leader,” she said. “Because I’m a leader on the court.”
Steffen is studying psychology with a minor in sports management. In November, she became the first player in Saints basketball history to score 1,000 career points in a game against Goshen College.
Basketball camps like the one Steffen held and the one Memorial graduate Todd Johnson will hold for boys on Friday, Aug. 9, help Tolson rebuild its image.
Keidrick Stout, a sports and recreation director at Tolson, hopes successful sports camps make Toslon an appealing place for children and parents.
“Hopefully we’ll be seeing these girls on a high school roster some day and say ‘Hey, they passed through Tolson,’” he said. “‘We have their picture on the wall.’”
Steffen hopes to be back for camp again next year, armed with more participants and more advice from her college and AAU coaches.
Most importantly, she just wants to pass on her knowledge of the sport she loves.
“I love basketball,” She said. “If (the campers) love it, I want them to work hard and be dedicated to it, too. I want them to go to college and play.”