Born and raised in Gastonia, NC, Carleena Costner played basketball at Appalachian State University, earning her bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communication & received her Masters of Science in Sports Management from Georgia Southern University. While at Appalachian State, Carleena attained numerous academic accolades as a student athlete, including TIAA CREF Academic All-Conference honors, Phi Eta Sigma and National Society of Collegiate Scholars inductions. Costner was also an Appalachian State scholar ring recipient for the class of 2007, an award presented to Appalachian State student athletes that graduate with a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher. Currently, Carleena works for the City of Gastonia Parks and Recreation Department as the Director for Phillips Community Center and is the creator of Drills & Skills Academy, a basketball training program for ages 5-15 designed to cultivate the well-rounded student athlete.
1.What is Drills &Skills Academy and why is it so important to your community?
Drills & Skills Academy is a basketball training program for ages 5-15 designed to cultivate the well-rounded student athlete. Here, athletic development is coupled with educational components to prepare athletes athletically & academically. DSA is important to my community because it provides athletes access to training at a low cost while preparing them for their academic and athletic future.
2.At this grassroot age, fundamentals and development are important. What drills do you start with depending their skill level?
During the 6-week training, week 1 consists of an evaluation to see where each child is in their development stage. Weekly, lessons are then tailored to cover the basic fundamentals such as ball handling, shooting, defense & team IQ. As a child progresses in their training, drills become more complex and specific to their position.
3.How has the program evolved over the years?
DSA’s initial focus was basketball training. In the past 2 years, DSA incorporated the “Academy” portion to the program. This aspect emphasizes enhancing academics, basketball IQ, and other life skills to explore all avenues essential to personal development. DSA has become a staple in the community, averaging roughly 60 athletes per 6-week sessions.
4.What perspective have you discovered that is common among parents regarding their child?
Families that have been in our program since its inception are very patient and understanding with the training process and understand that each child develops differently. They are extremely supportive and are truly the backbone for the success of the program.
5.As a former Division I athlete, what advice can you give to athletes pursuing an opportunity in sports.
You must be fully committed to your development as both a student and an athlete. Maintaining good grades, time management skills, communication skills and maintaining a positive attitude will be key to your success as an athlete at the elite level.
6. How has Drills & Skills Academy been beneficial to your community?
Drills & Skills Academy is beneficial to my community because it provides a blue print of the steps necessary to become a successful student athlete. By providing the program at a low cost, it eliminates financial stressors and the inability for a child to receive elite training as compared to their peers in suburban areas.
7.What have you found to be gratifying the most working with kids in your program?
The most gratifying part of working with kids in my program is seeing their growth and development as students and athletes. As they improve, you see a shift in their focus and mentality which will be essential to their careers as they transition to middle school & high school sports.
8.The educational component of Drills & Skills academy; speak about it
The educational component of DSA encompasses various aspects outside of physical training to enhance development. In regards to the educational component of athletics, athletes are taught how to dissect game film, read X’s and O’s, create plays and taught how to read and develop scouting reports. Academically, athletes participate in academic enhancement activities, introduced to NCAA Clearinghouse requirements & will participate in virtual and on-campus college tours. To enhance life skills, athletes participate in financial literacy courses and are encouraged to explore avenues outside of sports. In a previous Academy session, athletes were tasked with identifying a talent outside of sports that could be used to create an entrepreneurial avenue. Our goal is to help athletes tap in to all talents to become well rounded young adults.
9.Did you ever think your experiences would be a vehicle to helping other athletes now?
I wouldn’t have imagined that I would be here today working with athletes in this capacity. As a Division I athlete, there were areas I struggled in based on the lack of knowledge and resources that I had growing up. Once I returned to my hometown, I knew that it was essential to create a program like this to help athletes develop personally and athletically.
10.What are your future plans for Drills & Skills Academy? Do you plan on expanding in any way?
In regards to expansion, I would love to work with other recreation departments to incorporate a form of DSA as a product in their communities. Oftentimes, athletes in at-risk communities aren’t afforded equal opportunities for training and development. In collaboration with parks and recreation departments, DSA athletes can access academic and athletic resources needed to better prepare them for their future.
11. How can all of us as former athletes lead and inspire in the right way for the athletes, we come in contact with to become successful?
Be honest and transparent with your experiences as a Division I athlete. Share every aspect of your journey to help athletes understand the sacrifices and mental qualities needed to be successful not only as an athlete, but as a person.
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