Southern Utah News Articles
Heaton's Basketball Camp - a lost art
Tucked in the seams of the small town of Orderville in southern Utah is a treasure only the basketball gods and those who have been privy to partake of the treasure throughout the years will appreciate. It is the Ferril Heaton Basketball Camp and has become somewhat of a lost art in a basketball-camp-world now filled with games, T-shirts, swimming, cafeteria plans, and fun filled days in dorms and motels.
The origins of this 28 year historical treasure began when Coach Ferril Heaton took over a newly formed girls athletic program not long after Title IX was passed, giving women free reign to play sports. Heaton had recently coached in New Mexico, a state that was further ahead in women’s sports, and wanted to introduce Long Valley to women’s sports. He invited his coaching friend, By Beckstead, from Kirtland, New Mexico, to bring over a group of college-bound female athletes to teach some shooting and dribbling drills to his team and some of the boys in the community. That was 1981, the emergence of the Heaton’s first shooting camp in southern Utah. He believed that by watching some of these female athletes from New Mexico shoot, girls could shoot the ball as well as a boy, given proper instruction.
Soon Beckstead was not only giving instruction each summer at Valley High School, but he was on a crusade to teach proper shooting form to other small town girls in southern Utah and elsewhere. As the saying goes, “Success breeds Success!” Soon Heaton too was off and running with a few 1A State Titles in his pocket. Others around the state wanted to know how he had done it.
Ever since, he has become the state Guru of basketball shooting and has been traveling border to border and beyond, on a crusade to break down the jump shot, cross over, and other fundamentals for eager hoopsters; a tedious task most coaches don’t want to do, much less the athlete.
“The teaching of fundaments is a lost art that takes hours and hours,” says Heaton. “I recently got an e-mail from a fellow who was promoting a camp that attributes the demise of American basketball on an international level to the lack of fundamentals being taught to the youth. We have great athletes in the USA, but European and other countries are catching us by using fundamentals to stay with our athleticism. I agree with that.”
You won’t find the hefty price tag at his camps. It is only $90 for 30 hours of instruction, which translates to $3 an hour for each athlete of the 30-60 per session. Most of the payment comes in sweat equity that each boy or girl puts into his or her shot or dribbling moves. Children at his camps range from six all the way up to senior in high school. He has even fixed college and NBA players shooting form. He has also done his camp at family reunions.
“It’s a tough camp and very repetitious for the participant,” says Heaton, of the muscle memory needed to maintain what he and his staff drill. “It is boring and I have had coaches ask me how I can teach this stuff week after week and be on my feet that long. Many athletes don’t want to go through the toughness and sore muscles required of the camp, so they elect for more fun camps.”
It is this passion that has made his programs, and others around the state, better. He has quietly walked the hardwoods of this state teaching girls and boys alike how to bring their shot to an “L,” or jump hop into a jump shot, or keep their dribble on their “x.” He has made the fundamentals of basketball an art, or maybe he has brought the science into the game. None-the-less, he is fulfilling a role in the basketball kingdom that is becoming extinct. Perhaps it is his persistence that has leaked into other successful programs that have been motivated by his constant preaching of fundamentals as the vitality to success in high school athletics.
These are the fundamentals taught at his camps: dribbling with both hands, cross over, spin reverse, hesitation, “Allen Iverson” jump stops, shooting, breakdown jump shot, dribbling into jump shot, guard moves, and post moves, not to mention all the life lessons taught about perseverance and hard work.
Heaton teaches a camp each June in Orderville, but also provides camps at various high schools throughout the state each summer.