By Brent Stubbs
Senior Sports Reporter
FREEPORT - Since 1978 when he returned from college, Charlie ‘Softly’ Robins has been giving back to the community, hosting an annual summer basketball camp.
He started at Aquinas College when he served as physical education teacher and now it has grown in Grand Bahama where he resides and he was inspired to continue through his longtime mentor and friend Gladstone’ Moon’ McPhee.
The Softly Robins Summer Basketball Camp, now 41 years old, is scheduled to be held June 17-20 at the Charlie ‘Softly’ Robins Basketball Park in Grand Bahama.
From July 1-5, Robins will move the camp to Bimini in honour of his deceased brother Sugar Robins, who was instrumental in helping him when he was alive.
“I see that the kids need a little help in Bimini because they like basketball a lot,” said Robins of his decision to continue the camp.
“But here in Grand Bahama, this is something from time and memory that I do. I had a lot of players who passed through it, young people like Peter Adderley, Ben Russell, and the late Ritchie Adderley.”
While he basks in their glory when he sees players who advance to the professional ranks as a result of their participation in the camp, Robins said it’s all about “making young men out of these guys in Grand Bahama.
“I found that most of these guys had nothing to do in the summer and I realised that Moon couldn’t do it all himself. Errol Bodie was into track and field and basketball was my thing, so we decided to put it on.”
Formerly held at St Vincent de Paul School, to Mary Star of the Sea and the Jack Hayward Gymnasium, Robins said the camp is held at the Charlie ‘Softly’ Robins Basketball Park that was held in his honour a few years ago. “I had a heart problem about two years ago, but I’m feeling much better now,” said the former basketball wizard as a player. “I’m back now and I’m giving back to Grand Bahama and Bimini.
“I’ve had some sponsors who have been with me for over 30 years. I don’t have to look for them. Sometimes my sponsors call me. They don’t want to divulge their names, but they know who they are.”
The camp is designed to teach the basics of basketball and Robins said he’s appreciative of the players who were former participants, who provide items that he can share with the participants every year.
It’s open to boys and girls aged seven to 17 years between the hours of 8:30am to 1pm from Monday to Friday on the Charlie ‘Softly’ Robins Park, sponsored by the Local Government in Grand Bahama.
“That is why I and Moon McPhee give so much back to the community,” Robins said. “The people return and make their contribution because they see the value in what we are doing.
“For me, it’s a privilege to have something named in your honour. So every summer, I do the camp in the park so that we can keep it going.”
Robins, the immediate past president of the Bahamas Basketball Federation, said he’s happy to be able to live long enough to get his “flowers” while he is alive.
Just last year, he was also inducted into the Ministry of Youth, Sports and Culture’s National Hall of Fame for his contribution to the sport of basketball as a player, coach and administrator.
“I just want to make a difference,” said Robins of his involvement in the various programmes. “Things are not getting better, they are getting worse with our young people. But guys like myself, guys like Moon McPhee and I see Manny Adderley, who also came up the ranks, Norris Bain, Mario Bowleg, there are a lot of people who are giving back to these young people.”
Like he’s doing in Bimini as well, Robins said it’s his hope that more people will take their expertise to the Family Islands and work with the young people who live there and are looking for someone to give them the basic skills.
“If you look at some of the kids, all they do is run up and down and all the coaches want to do is win,” he pointed out. “They are only interested in winning at high school or night league, but they are not instilling the proper fundamentals in their players.”
As long as he has the health and strength in his body, Robins said he will continue to host the basketball camp. But he doesn’t see himself dealing with the high school or night league programme anymore. “I just prefer to work with the young kids to teach them the basic fundamentals,” he summed up.