After coaching high school girls’ basketball for 23 years, Craig Campbell continues to incorporate new experiences into his team’s program.
Campbell, head coach of the Clovis West high school girls’ basketball team in Fresno, Calif., got his first head coaching job at age 22 and has been at his current position for the past 12 years.
“I played basketball all my life and love the game,” Campbell says. “After high school and college, I had that passion to continue being involved in the culture. Coaching fueled that competitive fire while keeping me close to the game.”
Some of the unique coaching opportunities he’s had:
- Campbell continues to coach at the Michael Jordan summer camp in Santa Barbara. It’s quite a different creature from the summer camps he runs, and it helps him approach coaching from a new angle.
“It’s a challenge but it’s been very rewarding because you’re dealing with a lot of kids who don’t speak English, so the game becomes your language,” Campbell says. “I’ve had teams where there are seven out of 12 players who don’t speak English. You have to come up with creative ways to communicate with them. It’s just been a lot of fun and a great value to coach kids from overseas.”
- Clovis West moved to California’s Open Division — made up of more than 1,500 high schools in the state, regardless or enrollment or division — five years ago.
“There were a couple years where we got thrown into it and I didn’t think we belonged up there. We lost by 30 twice,” Campbell says. “We had a young team through all of that and this graduating class that just left us were freshman and sophomores on two of those teams that got throttled. That group saw what that next level looks like, and they just kept working.”
- The daunting test reaped rewards, however — the Clovis West girls’ team won its first state title in California’s Open Division in 2016.
The path they took to the championship was difficult, even by Open standards. In the three games leading up to the title match, they faced three consecutive McDonald’s All-Americans — something that odds say probably shouldn’t happen considering there are only 24 of them annually. They held each player to her season low in scoring.
While some coaches are math or P.E. teachers on the side, Campbell chose a different path — art. He values the desk time being an art teacher allows him to have.
“Running a high-level program is honestly a year-round job,” he says. “Between fundraising, scheduling, running our own AAU program, and a summer program, it’s constant work. I couldn’t get it all done as a P.E. teacher, and art allows me to keep up with that.”
These days, the Clovis West squad also includes his daughter, Madison. “As a dad, your kids are always going to be judged and criticized that they got where they are by being a coaches’ kid,” Campbell says. “I’ve always gone to the other extreme. I’m way harder on her than anybody on our roster. I’ve definitely tried to make it very clear that anything she gets, she earns. She’s been blessed to have played with so many talented players and seen great leadership in the classes ahead of her.”