Battle in the Bluffs was anything but warlike. The basketball camp held last weekend works to instill ideals and work ethics that go beyond the court and extend into careers. The camp, which was attended by 110 kids, spanned the weekend, and was capped off with playoff games.
On Saturday, the campers did cardio exercises and learned fundamental basketball skills, which they put to the test in Sunday’s games.
“We force them to be a bit uncomfortable so that they evolve as people,” said Ian Thomas Minor, founder of Battle in the Bluffs.
At the start of camp, everyone sits in a circle and introduces themselves, says where they’re from, and shares two strengths they have and one weakness that they want to work on. “We teach sportsmanship, hard work, and authenticity,” said Mr. Minor. “You should be comfortable in your passions. We instill little life lessons so kids can operate in their passions.”
The coaches promoted a joyous inclusivity that encouraged kids to push themselves. Normally, being told to run laps is met with groans or grim-faced determination. However, in Niantic Park that day, the campers were giggling as they passed half-court and headed for the endline.
“Kids who come to Battle in the Bluffs love being out there. When you have kids who love being out there, information retention is high, and we use that to empower kids,” said Mr. Minor.
Mr. Minor was a 2001 graduate of Martha’s Vineyard Regional High School and went to the playoffs in basketball his senior year. He went on to play in college, and now he coaches at his alma mater, Molloy College in Long Island, and runs a youth nonprofit called Connective.
Under the lights, Sunday night held the adults’ All-Star Shoot-Out. The black team faced off against the white team, battling back and forth across the court until the black team closed with a decisive victory of 88 to 73.
Everyone gave it their all, and the stakes were high: a sushi and champagne dinner, catered brunch, select seating at a poetry reading, Fourth of July South Beach party, team picture, and the team name and year engraved on the McCarthy Cup.
Both teams exhibited strong amounts of skill and athletic ability, and kept their heads in the game in spite of the host, Joe Poe, quickly nicknaming the players with a comedic bravado that had the audience howling. “Basketball brings people together,” said Mr. Minor. “It gets you away from the negativity.”
Battle in the Bluffs has become a fixture of the Fourth of July weekend festivities on the Vineyard since its beginnings in 2012. “We wanted to give back to the community and the Island,” said Mr. Minor. “It’s a passion project. It allows you to meet people you would never meet and make a bond with the Island.”