Teens find solace in sweet sound of the swoosh
Story by Ryan Kryska
Photo by David Kadlubowski
GCU News Bureau
Nothing was different about the traffic at the 35th Avenue and Camelback Road intersection on Wednesday evening: cars, trucks and buses, work vehicles and family vans, people crossing the road, the sun in your eyes heading west.
But not lost in the heart of it all was a hue. On the north sidewalk, three groups of teen boys carried basketballs, shoes and gym bags across the intersection on their way east to Grand Canyon University.
They were headed to the Ball Out Phoenix basketball developmental camp at GCU Arena, where they’d learn drills, listen to speakers who know what it takes to be successful and meet the kid across town who could turn out to be a best friend.
The camp is free, and it’s run by a group of students who are bringing the future of Phoenix down the Camelback sidewalk.
“I saw a love for the game and I saw how passionate people would get about simply dribbling a ball,” said Elisha Fronda, a junior Honors student at GCU and founder of Ball Out Phoenix. “I kind of had a different level of how it could make an impact in the community and from there I think we had a cool opportunity.”
Fronda was born and raised on Oahu, Hawaii’s most populous island, where he attended a high school for native Hawaiians. It was there he ran his first camp in June 2017, humbled by the fact that months of preparation and effort resulted in the opportunity to inspire a couple of campers.
“There is a whole different mindset, a whole other purpose,” Fronda said. “I started off with two kids. We’re really not asking for anything from them except to give their all and have a selfless nature of not working for yourself.”
Fronda’s second camp took place about six months after the first one. Forty-eight campers showed up that time. This time around, nearly 60 Valley teenagers signed up to find solace in the sweet sound of the swoosh.
The camp started Monday and ends Friday and is orchestrated entirely by students.
Fronda has a large staff, including interns, who help him with instruction, marketing and sponsorship. Fronda also uses his resources to bring in speakers such as Honors College Assistant Dean Breanna Naegeli, who is a licensed sports psychologist, and the Director of the Sports Business Program at Grand Canyon University, Mark Clifford.
Caleb Burns, a junior at GCU and the camp’s lead coach, told a story about a camper who embodied the impact Ball Out seeks to make on each teen.
At the previous camp, Burns said there was a kid who would always stay late and was hesitant to give up the basketball at the end of the day.
Burns said the staff found out he didn’t have a ball at home, so they put their change together and bought him one. The staff surprised him on the last day of camp.
“We could see the tears down his eyes and all of a sudden you realize that this is a little bit more than a basketball camp,” Burns said. “Probably the biggest thing is we have the life lessons and are teaching that it’s bigger than basketball. Be known, be loved. This has honestly been a life-changing experience to be a part of.”