Fathers and Sons Bond at BYU Basketball Camp
Contributed By By Jason Swensen, Church News staff writer
For the past 16 years, Arthur Francis and some combination of his seven sons have made the trip each summer to Brigham Young University’s annual Fathers and Sons Basketball Camp.
Yes, Brother Francis is a diehard Cougar fan. And, yes, at 6 feet 7 inches he’s a natural on the hard court (in fact, he once played on BYU’s freshman squad). But those aren’t the primary reasons why he and his boys return to this unique camp each year.
“It’s really just a joyous time for us to be together,” said the Yorba Linda, California, resident.
The fathers and sons camp has become an annual highlight for many families. It is, at once, a fantasy basketball camp and a testimony-building retreat.
Campers sharpen their jump shots and bounce passes under the tutelage of Cougar men’s head coach Dave Rose and several of his assistants and players. Each family bunks in the BYU dorms and are together for all of the many basketball rotations. This year almost 1,000 athletes participated.
But the camp offers more than recreation and basketball instruction. For many, the highlight of the four-day event falls on the one day when campers never touch a ball. Sunday at camp is an opportunity for the boys and their dads to worship together and enjoy Sabbath-day “coaching” on those things that matter most.
“The fathers and sons camp is so much more than just a weekend of basketball,” said BYU senior associate athletic director Brian Santiago.
In the most recent camp—which ran May 25 through May 28—the fathers and sons were bused on Sunday morning from BYU’s Provo, Utah, campus to attend the broadcast of Music and the Spoken Word in the Tabernacle on Temple Square in Salt Lake City. An hour later, they gathered at the neighboring Assembly Hall for a camp sacrament meeting.
A trio of young campers enjoy a Sabbath-day visit to Temple Square. The day included a special sacrament meeting. Photo courtesy of BYU Athletic Department.
Priests and deacons from the camp were enlisted to bless and pass the sacrament. Then the campers listened to instruction from President Henry B. Eyring, First Counselor in the First Presidency, along with President Eyring’s son Matthew J. Eyring and Coach Rose.
“To be able to spend an entire day concentrating on something spiritual is what we believe is the magic of the camp,” said Brother Santiago.
In his remarks, President Eyring spoke of the many life lessons that can be learned from sports. Anyone who plays basketball will experience losses. Life offers that same certainty. How one chooses to play the game, he said, is more important than winning or losing.
Participants in the 2013 BYU Fathers and Sons Basketball Camp gather for a Sunday lunch at This Is the Place Heritage Park. Many say the Sabbath-day activities are the highlight of the basketball-themed event that draws hundreds from across the country each year. Photo courtesy of BYU Athletic Department.
President Eyring also spoke of his love for his own father and sons and the importance of working hard to claim the blessings of eternity.
Matthew J. Eyring shared his memories of shooting a basketball with his dad. Later, the campers enjoyed an evening devotional and ice cream social on the BYU campus.
The chance to play basketball alongside his sons once again proved a priceless memory for Brother Francis. “But my favorite day at camp,” he said, “is always Sunday.”
On the last day of camp, Brother Santiago, Coach Rose, and the rest of the staff recognized the campers who had received mission calls. Counted among those was Brother Francis, who has been called to preside over the New York Rochester Mission.
He’ll be skipping camp for the next three years. Then he plans to be back, perfecting his box-out moves, working up a sweat, and building more memories with his sons.
“My boys wouldn’t let me miss it,” he said.