Each year I am amazed at the places I travel to, the people I meet, and the experiences I have all due to a little orange ball. Panama is now the newest stamp in my passport as I have had the opportunity to spend this past week there working along side two of the NBAs best camp instructors, Donnie Arey and Antonio Perez with the Orlando Magic. Jump Shoot Basketball Academy was started in 2004 by two brothers, Luis and Victor Julio, who possessed an equal love for the game of basketball and vision for helping develop the sport in their native country. With this dream in mind, they started their own basketball academy and have spent the last 8 years teaching the fundamentals, developing coaches, and creating teams to compete in various national and international competitions.
The differences in the camp were evident at first glance, as the gym was filled with girls and boys from 6-17 years old, of various nationalities and skill levels. The similarities were equally evident though, as they were all hard workers who were very eager to learn!! The focus of this week of camp was to teach drills that were both challenging and fun and that would develop both foundational skills and a love for the game!! Donnie, Antonio, and I not only spent the week teaching the 100 plus kids that enrolled in our camp we also had the opportunity to work along side the Jump Shoot Academy coaches, passing on knowledge so that they are better equipped to instruct the kids the rest of the year.
My travels have always provided me with a first-hand history lesson, so it was only fitting that the first place I visited was the Mira Flores Panama Canal. The United States helped construct this amazing engineering waterway system in 1914, making it a lot faster to transport materials and goods between the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans. After an incredible private tour, where we were able to walk over the locks, we had the chance to watch an enormous Chinese cargo ship navigate through the various locks with only 2 feet to spare on either side for a bargain price of $400,000!!
Living in Miami, it was an easy transition to go from one tropical city to the next. Founded by the Spanish in 1519, Panama City still has some of the remains for the Old City, or Panama Viejo along with the new city which is being restored to show its stunning architecture as it outlines the coastline. Panama is one of the fastest economically developing countries in Central America and is one of the top 5 retirement destinations in the world!! What I love more than the sun and the landscape are the people that I met. Victor, Luis and their amazing wives and children truly made me feel at home as they welcomed me to not only their country, but also their family! I have so much respect for the Julio family for their devotion to the Panamanian Youth, when we see our first Panamanian WNBA player, without a doubt it will be because of Jump Shoot Academy!!
For the Spanish translation of Ruths blog click here