Frank Camp has lived with his own March Madness for 25 years, but it’s not the one you’re thinking.
When everyone else in engrossed in NCAA tournament basketball, Camp’s phone starts ringing.
It’s parents again, curious about the details of Camp’s annual 4Cs Basketball Camp at Smith Middle School. There are scholarships to work out with elementary schools, phone calls to see if sponsors who were generous with their money the previous year will be as giving this year, and coordinating with former camp attendees to see if they want to return as instructors.
Contrary to an understandable confusion, Camp’s 4Cs are not based on Carolina’s “Four Corner’s” set.
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Camp certainly pulls for the University of North Carolina’s varsities during the peak of college basketball season. In fact, he coordinated just last week with UNC assistant C.B. McGrath so the Tar Heel men could use Smith Middle School’s gym for summer workouts.
Last week also marked the 25th anniversary of the 4Cs (Chapel Hill-Carrboro Community Camp) at Smith, but it had a different feel for Camp. It was his first after retiring as head coach at Smith.
Retirement meant a reduction in workload, which helped reduce the stress of the 4C’s version of “March Madness.”
“I just want to get home sooner,” said Camp.
That’s been a chore in itself for Camp, who coached basketball at Culbreth and then Smith Middle School. His winters were filled with basketball, and his summers, as well.
During the 80s, Camp started the 4Cs, worked with Coach Lee Miller at Chapel Hill High, and helped Coach Dean Smith at the UNC Basketball School.
“At my peak, I had seven weeks of basketball camps during those summers,” said Camp.
With the plethora of modern day AAU organizations and the And One Mixtape tours, it’s hard to envision any era that had a dearth of young basketball camps. Yet that was the case in 1989, when Camp started the 4Cs at Culbreth Middle School with several dozen attendees and Durham Sporting Goods as the only sponsor.
“I realized there was a void in the summer,” said Camp. “I wanted to create a connection with kids, and one of the easiest ways to connect with kids in Chapel Hill is through basketball. That’s very obvious.”
In recent years, the backbone of the 4Cs has been John French, who helped coach Chapel Hill High’s girls basketball state champions last season and who also runs the Chapel Hill Police Department’s Visions Program, which meets weekly at local middle schools. Each morning of the 4Cs camp, French picks up young players in a van, takes them to the gym, and then drops them off at home at day’s end. After the camp wraps up, French has been known to take trips with the players to Atlanta or Washington, D.C.
“John’s been able to give a lot more kids the opportunity to participate in the camp,” said Camp. “John and I have networked together for years. Through his connections, we’ve been able to grow.”
Over the decades, 4Cs Camp has developed a deeper family atmosphere, with many former students returning to serve for a week as instructors. On the camp’s final day, the special guest was Pat Rhodes, who played under Coach Camp in the 80s. Rhodes eventually coached at Orange and Chapel Hill High before becoming Orange County Superintendent.
Each year, the 4Cs campers are compiled by Camp after he meets with family specialists at each elementary and middle school in the district. Each school receives three full scholarships and three half-scholarships.
Now, instead of having to go door-to-door for sponsors, the same familiar names line up to splash their logos on the 4Cs t-shirt every year.
Camp is closing in on full retirement. (He’ll have 29 years with the Chapel Hill-Carrboro district this October.) But he sees a future for 4Cs without him.
“I would think that John and others will keep it alive,” said Camp. “They understand my hopes and my philosophies well enough to continue the camp. It’s a win-win for everyone.”