Winnipeg youth living in the inner-city are getting world-class coaching at the Athletes in Action basketball camp this week.
Carriera Lamoureux is the inner-city supervisor for the Athletes in Action basketball sports camp, who will also be present.
Lamoureux says, "There are two guest coaches coming in this week. Even though our inner-city camp is free, we're bringing in both Wyatt Anders and Debbie Yeboah. Wyatt played four years with the University of Manitoba Bisons and he now plays professionally on the international 3x3 circuit. Debbie played five years at the University of Victoria and then she played two years overseas in Germany. They're also wonderful people!"
For the past two weeks, the inner-city basketball camp has been running at the Youth For Christ (YFC) building in downtown Winnipeg, and has been more-or-less a safe place and drop-in for youth to come to.
"We've had nothing but a great time. They have a beautiful facility, and actually, as a result of the two weeks that we've been there, they've offered us their gym space for this week so we can host our Elite inner-city camp."
This week the training of the camp will be more intense and geared towards getting better at the sport of basketball.
"Normally we run drop-in programming so kids can come whenever they want with no specific time requirement. However, this is an actual camp. So because of the pandemic, we will be running two sessions."
One time slot will be in the morning and the other in the afternoon, all week long.
"Basically it's two and a half hours of concentrated skill development," says Lamoureux.
Normally a camp like this would cost just over $150 to register. However, this is a special program that Athletes in Action has been running for ten years now, offering free camp, even with the elite option, free of charge for youth living in the inner-city.
"I've been at this for about ten years, we've been developing this programming, and what is so significant about it is that it offers young people a safe space to play their favourite sports at absolutely no cost."
The kids that come to this camp are often 'at-risk' youth who can find a safe place to interact with adults who care about them.
"Sport is a mediator, it's a vehicle that allows us to get to know the young people that enter our gym and develop relationships with them. They can be connected to a larger community of support, that not only wants to see them develop in terms of their favourite sport, but also as individuals."
Lamoureux, who coaches sporadically also, is invested personally in this program that she has poured a decade of her life into.
"I live in the inner-city, I am an Indigenous woman, but I've also witnessed the impact social programming can have on the lives of 'at-risk' young people. To provide spaces where they can come just as they are, with or without a desire to get better doesn't matter, because they can just hang out. That's so important for them, especially during the summer, especially during a pandemic."
The impact is felt from all that are involved, not just the children.
Lamoureux says, "These young people bless us so tremendously because we learn from them, we grow in knowing them, and we become really big fans of them."