It was the first time the Cougars' sixth-year coach had hosted a winter youth camp and it paid off. He had always held a youth summer camp during his tenure at the local school. The 2013 edition of summer camp wraps up Wednesday night and Penney is trying to learn from both of his program's camp endeavors, the winter and the summer.
"Our summer numbers are small," Penney said after Tuesday night's camp session. "We've had 23 this week and that's a great number to work with. The kids get better instruction, but in terms of interest, it makes you wonder if the local kids are interested.
Nearly 60 kids took part in the winter D-League that ran from mid-January through early March, earlier this year. Despite only boasting about a third of the participants, Penney said the summer camp is going well. The camp is comprised of three two-hour evening sessions, on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday.
Penney sat down with his varsity assistant coach, John Rogers, and gave him the Camp Director title. The duo wanted the summer camp to be teaching from the basketball staff's side and learning from the kids' standpoint.
"We want it to be instruction based. We want to teach," Penney said. We aren't trying to make lots of money. Our intention is we want to teach kids the game of basketball. Maybe that's not all fun for the kids. We still want to have a fun atmosphere, but really we need to teach the fundamentals. We might need to be stubborn in some of our teaching, but then we need to be creative too so we can still keep it fun and interesting for the kids."
Rogers echoed those sentiments and said he was having a ball changing pace by working with the younger kids in addition to the Cougars' coaching staff's daily work with its high school players.
"It's fun to get back to the basics and teach the fundamentals with the kids," Rogers said. "That might not be the first thing the kids would choose to work on but we make it fun for them. The kids are great. They'll try to do anything to impress you as a coach and that just puts a smile on your face."
Rogers and Penney are leading the camp instruction but SSHS assistants Tony Abbie, Randy Perkins and Dan Lide are also putting in instruction time during the camp. A handful of Cougar student athletes have been hard at work running drills and giving pointers to the local youths as well.
The camp proves to be just as valuable of a tool for current Cougar players as possibly future ones.
"I like doing this. It's a lot of fun seeing the smiles on the kids faces," said 16-year-old Brandon Barlow, who will be a junior in the SSHS program next winter. "I remember high schoolers teaching me how to play at camps when I was a kid. Now I get to be like that, kind of a role model.
"When you see the kids do something you just taught them, it makes you feel like you taught it well. Coach taught me and then I taught the kids. It's kind of cool to pass it along."
Nine-year-old Elijah Evans had no problem after Tuesday's camp session sharing what he had learned during the first two days of workouts.
"The camp is not too serious. It's just about having fun," Evans said. "I'm learning to keep the ball away from defenders, how to pivot and I'm doing really good."
Cougars campers seem to praising the event to their parents.
"He totally loves it," Stephanie Malia said, alluding to her 7-year-old son Mathew's camp experience. I like the structure of the camp. The kids aren't just learning basketball. They're learning to follow directions and other useful tools. I also like that the other coaches and players are coaching too. That's helping develop the whole Cougars program."
Malia is a vice principal at SSHS. So she wasn't surprised at the camp's up-tempo style that keeps the kids engaged and on task.
"I work here at the school so I know Kyle (Penney) as a coach and as a teacher. I know he runs a positive camp for the kids."
Malia wasn't the only parent raving about their child's experience. Rachelle Noonkester, whose 6-year-old daughter Layni was busy enjoying the camp, gushed about her daughter's camp experience.
"As soon as we got home from the first night, she went right outside to our basketball hoop and worked on everything she'd learned. And she's pretty possessive about that new black Cougar basketball."
Each youth camper received a basketball to use during the clinics and take home at the camp's conclusion. Additionally, with the cost of youth activities skyrocketing, the cost of the SSHS hoops camp was relatively affordable, asking just $50 per participant.
"You definitely get some bang for your buck," Noonkester said. "My daughter is just going into second grade but she's already picking up skills, plus your money supports a good cause."