Professional athletes live a pretty fast life in the spotlight. But when a player begins to see fresh blood on the court– younger, faster players, then it’s time to move on. Charles Oakley knows this as well as anyone. After retiring he faced the question of ‘what’s next?’ He decided that it was time to give back to the sport that gave him so much. And just like on the court, he’s giving back one-on-one by instructing at New York’s Brookwood Camps.
The camps provide boys and girls ages 6-17 an authentic traditional camp experience. But it’s not all bon-fires and marshmallows. The focus is on physical activity and personal development through sports. According to the Brookwood camps website:
“The Sports Academy at Broowood camps combines the best of sports camps with the best of a traditional camp into one comprehensive experience. Utilizing their more than 75 years of combined experience as owners and operators of both traditional summer camps and sports camps, the Fielder Family has created a summer program which gives children of varying interests and abilities a chance to thrive at their own pace within a secure, fun-filled, family atmosphere.”
The camp’s structure includes a variety of activities that the campers can choose to do. The child’s daily activities are built into their schedules to give them time to rest, socialize, bathe, and eat.
“Brookwood offers a multitude of activities to satisfy any child’s interest, including a variety of sports, water-based activities, broadcasting, arts programs, horseback riding, and more. Our unique Academy programs in our most popular activities feature some of the top professional instructors and coaches in the world. Campers can have an all-access experience for 2 weeks or more with daily programming choices and access to all Academy programs offered, or they can attend for a 1-week Academy Program to focus their time primarily in one sport or activity.”
An All-Star at Brookwood
For 2020, Charles Oakley returns to coach kids in the basketball training program at Brookwood. After retiring from basketball, Oakley found a way to share his knowledge as a coach for the BIG3 professional 3-on-3 basketball league. The former New York Knicks all-star forward was known for his incredible rebound skills throughout his 19-year career. And now he teaches those same skills to help children advance their confidence and athleticism.
Oakley isn’t the only star on the staff, however. Guest athletes such as Tim Capstraw and Mark Coffman also participate in the lessons. Even the camp’s director Scott Fielder is no stranger to the game. Early on in his career he became one of the youngest college basketball coaches ever. In addition, he also worked as an assistant at the Division 1 level of NCAA basketball. The website also provides more detail on each star coach’s background:
“Chris Cummings spent 20 years as a professional player in Germany prior to a stellar coaching career in the German pro leagues. Tim Capstraw is a former NCAA Division 1 Head Coach and currently works as a radio broadcast analyst for the Brooklyn Nets. Mark Coffman spent over 25 years coaching at the Division 1 level and currently runs a youth basketball academy in the Southern California area.”
Oakley Gives Back
Charles Oakley’s involvement as a guest instructor at Brookwood Camps isn’t the only way he gives back to the youth. In fact, Oakley also appeared at the 15thannual HoopTee Celebrity Golf Classic organized by Hornets president Fred Whitfield. The event gathered 35 sports and entertainment celebrities to fundraise for disadvantaged youths. HoopTee uses those funds to pay tuition for 75 percent of campers attending the Achievements Unlimited Basketball School.
Still, this is just one of about 12 to 15 events the basketball star attends each year. When asked about his participation in philanthropic events, Oakley responded saying that “giving back is just a wonderful thing.
“It’s important for the kids who can’t afford it. I just try to give them hope, just showing support and love, to help make themselves better in life.”
Helping Children in Underserved Communities
For 33 years, Achievements Unlimited has hosted over 10,000 kids and also focuses on education and drug abuse resistance. Similar to Brookwood camps, the program allows celebrities an opportunity to speak on principles of success to motivate the campers. For Oakley, programs like this succeed because of the people who work to create a great experience for the kids.
“It’s the body of work, the people who run it … the kids, the support from celebrities and entertainers, the people around the city, the fans,” he said. “Giving back is just a wonderful thing. Fred [Whitfield] tries to make a kid’s wish come true.”
It’s All About Helping the Kids
Particularly, what draws a lot of these stars to these camps is their love for the sport and the values it instilled in them. However, sport camps are notorious for serving families that can pay the high costs of running camp. What programs like Brookwood camps and Achievements Unlimited set out to do is bring this experience to underprivileged neighborhoods. The program’s founder commented on the heart of their efforts:
“It’s really the kids,” Whitfield said. “I know that’s sort of a phrase that people say, but as I look back on 33 years that we’ve run Achievements Unlimited basketball school, when I look back on the succession of kids who weren’t good enough to be professional athletes, that have gone on to do great things – be doctors, lawyers, teachers, military personnel – those kids dream their dreams the same way NBA players do.
“This golf tournament is just a facilitator to help those kids have an opportunity they don’t ordinarily have. Most of our kids couldn’t afford to go to basketball camp anywhere, so we create that experience for them, and the only way to do it is the golf tournament, and the easy way to do it is to ask my friends in the NBA and the NFL and coach [Ron] River [of the Carolina Panthers] and that type to just come in and support us.
“And they enjoy doing it because they understand what the long-term goal is, which is to give every kid that we can touch a chance at a better life.”
This is the mission that Charles Oakley continues to pursue at Brookwood camps. The hope is that him and other celebrities use their knowledge and skills to help underserved communities.