|Elite hoops clinic is only the tip of the iceberg for Gametime Sport Academy|
|Written by Deborah Stone|
ShareYouth who are serious about playing sports will now have another choice when it comes to training camps and clinics.
Gametime Sport Academy is bringing its elite training program to Woodinville.
Founded by Derek Sparks, author of “Lessons of the Game,” and former WSU football player, Gametime is an organization dedicated to student athletes.
Its upcoming clinic is geared specifically to basketball players, ages 12-18, who are looking to improve their game.
The program will focus on skills and incorporate a range of drills involving dribbling, passing and shooting.
Jamie Redd, a former WNBA player and UW all-time leading scorer, will head up the sessions, along with a cadre of accredited assistants.
Gametime got started 12 years ago with the release of Sparks’ book and the subsequent ESPN Sports Center documentary about his life, entitled, “The Derek Sparks Story.”
The Texas native, who grew up playing football in the small town of Wharton was one of the most coveted athletes in the country.
“I had an uncle in California and when I was in junior high, I sent him a tape of me playing football,” explains Sparks. “He showed it to some schools out there and then orchestrated deals to have them fly me to California. I ended up playing for four different high schools in four years. I played for both public and private schools. They lured me with tons of gifts, like free tuition, free places to stay, expensive cars to drive and more. But, there were strings attached to all of these things. Everyone wanted to cash in on my talent.”
He adds, “It was all illegal and improper, of course, because schools aren’t allowed to do those things, but they did and then it all got ugly. My experiences and the controversy that surrounded me during all of this later became the subject of my book, as well as of an ESPN documentary.”
Sparks was highly recruited out of high school and ended up at WSU, where he played tailback.
He admits that his college career was subpar, as injuries kept him from reaching his potential.
Instead of a glorious record, however, he ended up with something better, something more valuable — a college education and a degree in business.
“When you come from hardship, like Jamie (Redd) and I, education makes all the difference,” says Sparks. After graduation, he went on to a variety of careers, including being a football coach at a small college, where he always made sure to emphasize academics to his players.
He began making the rounds at different high schools, giving inspirational and motivational speeches to students.
He shared his story, and with it a valuable message for his audiences.
“Success involves work,” he told them. “It means applying yourself, being goal-driven, focusing and staying away from distractions and out of harm’s way.
“It also means believing in yourself and having confidence that you can accomplish what you set out to do.”
In the process, Sparks came up with “Gametime” as his mantra.
It eventually evolved into a brand and spun off into a variety of areas, including designing and manufacturing athletic apparel for schools.
“I use this arm of the business to fund the intervention work — all the afterschool programs I do in collaboration with other organizations,” comments Sparks. “These are programs to help keep kids off the streets, such as open gyms, arts and crafts classes, cooking classes, dance and academic prep classes.”
For Sparks, Gametime transcends sports and his hope for it to develop into a full service academy for athletes.
“I want to be able to prepare these kids for life so when they move on to college, they will be the best they can be in all areas.
“I especially want them to understand about the educational opportunities available to them.”
He adds, “It’s really about harnessing energy, setting goals and developing skills. And for me, it’s all about giving back to the community.”