By Turner Blaufuss
Last week’s NDSCS boys’ basketball camp was final for longtime Youth Camp Coordinator Max Reinke
This last week’s North Dakota State College of Science boys’ basketball camp had a record-high 191 athletes. For 39 years, young athletes from all over the area have made the trip to Wahpeton to hone their craft and compete on the hardwood.
The successful camp was also the final for Camp Coordinator Max Reinke who has operated and handled numerous other jobs at NDSCS camps since its inception 39 years ago.
“There always seem to be reasons and mine is health reasons. I’ve been told to reduce my load and this last week has been a real blast,” Reinke said. “It’s been a good run, but I just need to step down.”
The typical day for an NDSCS basketball camp begins at 8 a.m. with open gym.
Following the morning shoot-around is the 8:30 a.m. fundamentals session. Reinke expressed the impressive steps forward the camp has taken on the way the drills are conducted to make sure everyone is active.
“We used to do 10 at a station then the campers would rotate and thinking back you didn’t get enough time to touch the ball,” Reinke said. “When I looked in there this week, everybody was involved in something. If they didn’t have the ball they were still involved in something like shuffling, defense, boxing out – they weren’t waiting in line to do it.”
After three hours of fundamental drills, the campers load the bus to the NDSCS Student Center for their noon meal. In the early days of the camp Reinke and other camp personnel had to buy food for all the campers to feed them throughout the day, but the Student Center made more sense to Reinke.
“We did that for a while before we got smart about it and started going through the Student Center,” Reinke said. “That’s what we do now and the staff is always conscious of what the young boys like and the menu is never the same.”
From 12:15-4:30 p.m. the campers have some time for more open gym as one court is always open and they follow with a contest and games. Each day has a different competition for the athletes and awards are given at the end of the week. The younger campers compete in the Big Ten League, while the older hoopsters are in the NBA division. In the early days of Wildcat Camp there were few coaches, but Reinke knew they needed to spend a little extra money to get more coaches so it would be a better experience for them as well.
“The old days we used to have 12 coaches and they’d coach a Big Ten team and an NBA team and write evaluations for each player. Not only coach them but they officiate too. Now we have three officials to each court and coaches get to rest so we don’t burn them out,” Reinke said. “You spend a little bit more money, but then it’s fun for everybody including the coaches.”
At 4:30 p.m. the students once again flood the Student Center and from 6-8 p.m. the campers have another contest and even more games. Reinke’s goal when he designs the schedule is to give the athletes a large chunk of their day to spend on fundamentals while also leaving plenty of time for various contests and games, which produces a strong balance of work and fun.
“Definitely fundamentals are what make the camp and a lot of the campers don’t like fundamentals because they want to play games. You ask any coach or former player and they’ll look back and say fundamentals are the key,” Reinke said. “We figured out what we wanted to do with the time allotment to get a lot of fun in, too.”
The longtime camp coordinator was happy to carry on the Dr. Clair T. Blikre’s belief in keeping the camp costs affordable with a large focus on getting better.
“It goes back to Dr. Blikre. Wayne Johnson and Chuck Hanson approached him about starting a camp here. Dr. Blikre said you keep the cost low and the profits go to scholarships. I’ve continued that philosophy and the cost for three and a half days, including meals and rooms is great,” Reinke said. “I came from the old school where you keep it inexpensive and work them hard.”
Reinke was also happy he made it fun for all of the players and camp personnel as he receives numerous compliments every year. He’s made countless memories at Wildcat Camps and said what he’ll miss most is interacting with the campers.
“A lot of first-timers always stop by and say, ‘Hey, I really like this camp!’ All the funny things that happen with the kids and the compliments they give me aren’t needed but they’re very nice,” Reinke said. “I won’t miss the work part that causes the headache, but all these years I’ve always done it for the kids.”
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