Troup coach enjoys returning home
Published 3:32 pm Wednesday, July 10, 2019
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
She heeded the call.
Carla Thornton, Troup High’s girls’ basketball coach, has offered a youth camp in West Point nearly every year for a decade.
Thornton wasn’t going to host the camp this year, but she had a change of heart after some folks reached out to her.
“I was going to take this summer off, but I had parents calling me, in-boxing me,” Thornton said. “I said if you want your kids to do it, I’ll put it back on.”
So on Monday morning, close to 20 boys and girls arrived at the West Point Gym for a youth camp, with Thornton eager to pass along the knowledge she’s acquired over the years first as a player at Callaway High and Bethune Cookman, and then as a coach at Gardner Newman and Troup High.
Thornton grew up in West Point, so this camp has always held special meaning to her, and she’s doing her best to teach the fundamentals, while also imparting some life skills to the young players.
“I grew up on this court,” Thornton said. “Anytime I can come back here and help somebody else fulfill their dream, it means a lot. Although basketball it just a sport, it can do so much for your life. It paid for my education, it helped me get my job. It’s my career, it’s what I do.
“I want them to see the same thing, that you can be successful in sports. It can teach so many life skills, too.”
From a basketball standpoint, Thornton and her staff, which on Tuesday consisted of Troup senior standout Amber Gilbert, work with the campers on various skills.
One of the drills had the campers dribbling between their legs and behind their backs before attempting to make a basket.
“I try to teach kids ball-handling skills,” Thornton said. “Your confidence goes up so much when you know how to go between your legs, go behind your back. You teach them, and then when their parents come, it’s momma let me show you this.”
For most of the year, Thornton’s focus is on getting the best out of her high-school players.
After beginning her coaching career at Gardner Newman where she led the girls’ team to back-to-back league titles, she went to Troup to take over the girls’ basketball program for the 2009-2010 season.
While her competitive drive is still there, she places great value on the well-being of the players under her care.
“My career has transitioned,” Thornton said. “At first, I was all about winning by any means necessary. We had to win, and that’s all that mattered. But along the course of my career, I’ve learned to care more about the people. When you care about people, the wins will still come, because they’re giving you their best, because they don’t want to let you down.”
Whatever Thornton is doing is working.
After some lean years, Troup’s girls’ program is riding high, and the Lady Tigers are coming off a season where they went 17-9 and finished second in Region 5-AAAA before losing a tough one in the first round of the state tournament.
Win or lose, Thornton wants the players to enjoy coming to the gym.
Thornton’s message to her players is “I want basketball to be your peace. I know y’all have a lot going on at home. I want you to smile, and let’s have fun. You’re going to work hard, but this is happy time. I don’t want them to dread coming to practice. That’s kind of what I do now.”