Harper Woods High School hosts camp to help teens grow

By: Brendan Losinski | Advertiser Times | Published July 12, 2019

 The Triple Double Camp is the creation of Jalin Thomas, pictured speaking to 14-year-old Redford camper Jaylen Provost. Thomas founded the camp alongside his father to teach youths to improve themselves in different aspects of their lives, such as building character, doing well academically and planning for their futures.

The Triple Double Camp is the creation of Jalin Thomas, pictured speaking to 14-year-old Redford camper Jaylen Provost. Thomas founded the camp alongside his father to teach youths to improve themselves in different aspects of their lives, such as building character, doing well academically and planning for their futures.

Photo by Donna Agusti

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HARPER WOODS — Harper Woods area teens got the chance to hone their abilities on and off the basketball court June 24 and 25 by attending a free camp.

It was called Triple Double Camp, and it is the creation of Jalin Thomas and his father, Eric Thomas. Jalin, a former Michigan State University men’s basketball manager, began the camp with the goal of showing youths how to become better individuals in multiple ways, be it athletically, academically or socially.

“‘Triple double’ is a term taken from basketball and means you’re not dominant in just one area; you might get 12 rebounds, 12 assists, and 20 points,” explained Eric. “We think that’s critical in life — you’re not just good at one thing, like sports, but you’re good at behavior and good in the classroom too. Our whole goal is to help kids become well-rounded.”

Since starting in 2017, Triple Double Camp has spread across the United States, providing lessons about life, education and basketball to thousands of students.

“We tell the kids we don’t want them to just be good in one area. We don’t even want them to just be a good student; they should be a good student who is something else,” Eric explained. “We want them to be a good athlete, but a good athlete with strong character.”

Jalin began the camp when he was deciding what to do with his future. He had run similar camps for Michigan State University students, but saw there was a need for that kind of experience for younger teens.

“In the summer, Michigan State has its basketball camps,” Jalin said. “I did them all four years, and after graduation I realized I had the power and ability to run a camp like that. I worked and figured out I could run a camp like that for younger kids, and I worked with my dad in developing it and determining what would make it stand out. Character development turned out to be the key. We toured a lot of camps at schools like Kansas, Alabama and Pittsburgh.”

By teaming up with his father, he found that the two of them had the complementary skills needed to turn his idea into a success.

“(My dad and I) worked together to combine my expertise at organizing and running these camps with his expertise at bringing in volunteers and gathering support for the project,” said Jalin. “We have everything set up so that it’s all planned ahead of time, and schools can just put their names on it so it’s all ready to go. We have volunteers come down and help us put the camp on.”

Jalin and other coaches educate teens on the basketball court, and other volunteer experts come in to cover topics ranging from specific subjects like math to general lessons like test-taking to wider topics such as interacting with the police or managing finances.

“We have people helping them with test-taking, we have experts in STEM fields who worked at NASA talking about the importance of subjects like engineering and math, we have a Spanish speaker here discussing the importance of being bilingual, and we have athletes here from the Detroit Lions and the Michigan State and (the University of Michigan) basketball team,” Eric said. “Some of the lessons are motivational speaking, we do a lot of discussion sessions with the kids, we do critical-thinking challenges and games like chess tournaments. They have to get up and speak. Of course, there’s also the basketball, so we try to use a variety of methods to get points across. … We also use a lot of peer-to-peer lessons where it’s students teaching students.”

The Thomas family said that framing the camp with basketball served multiple purposes. It not only gave the teens a fun and physical outlet during the camp, but also allowed them to ease into other lessons they might have more difficulty engaging with at first.

“A lot of kids come up thinking the only way to succeed is sports, and we wanted to show them there are a lot of ways to succeed,” Jalin remarked. “There was a math problem on the board in the classroom upstairs, and only one kid in the classroom could solve it. We told him, ‘That’s your way to succeed, that’s your superpower. You may not be good at something else like reading, but you can do this.’”

Harper Woods School District officials thought the camp was a great match for the environment they are trying to foster for their students.

“Eric Thomas does a great job with mentorship and leadership, and our school board president knew him personally. We wanted our students to have some more programs fostering character and leadership skills, and we have a lot of good basketball players here, so it was a good combination for us,” said Kierre Gault, the athletic director for the Harper Woods School District. “(There are) a lot of different speakers with different life stories, and it’s a great opportunity for students to hear other things than what they know or they’ve gone through. It’s having a great impact on our students, and I’ve had several tell me they’ve learned a lot, whether it’s something in the classroom, something on the court or something in their everyday life.”

Trudi Crawley brought her grandson, Calvin Woodfork, all the way from Columbus, Ohio, to attend the camp in Harper Woods. She said that what young people, like her grandson, get out of the camp is well worth the trip.

“I brought my grandson here from Columbus, Ohio, because I recognized the importance of making sure they get what they need to be successful. I want to make sure he gets the foundation of what he needs to know about what he needs for school and personal growth and development.”

She also was impressed that Jalin and Eric Thomas designed the camp to be free to attend.

“They didn’t charge anything, and that in itself is a blessing,” she said. “(My grandson) gets to hear (these lessons) from someone besides Grandma and Mom. The feedback he’s been giving me is amazing.”

Eric said he has seen firsthand the difference two days can make in a young person’s life.

“We’ve seen this camp make a tremendous difference. I’ve had kids come up to me and say they were thinking about things they were never even aware of. They are taking away concepts, such as school also being a social tool for empowerment — it’s not just about grades. They can get their moms out of certain neighborhoods. They can change the trajectory of their family’s socio-economic status.”

More information on the camp can be found at www.tripledoublecamps.com.

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