The Chris Oestreich era at Melissa has arrived. On Monday, July 23, at Melissa High School, the Lady Cardinals’ new varsity head coach carried out his first official duties in that capacity by welcoming nearly two dozen girls, grades 2 through 9, to basketball camp.

“Yeah, I’m excited to get things started,” Oestreich said, “to get in here and see the kids and introduce myself - get to know them a little bit, lay a foundation for getting some things going here.”

He added, “I want to see what kind of foundation they’ve got. Then you’ll build on that foundation or grow the foundation of fundamentals: shooting, playing hard and having fun. If a kid learns that playing hard is part of having fun then that’s the foundation for everything you do. They’ll run offense hard, they’ll play defense hard. … Going hard is the important part.”

Oestreich said while competition is something kids enjoy in these settings, “understanding how to win and how to lose” should be stressed as well. “Kids, I think, at every age level, want to win but there can only be one winner. So part of this is looking for competitive kids and helping them understand that there will be some scenarios where you’re not always going to win. How do you grow from losing? And how do you grow from winning?”

Oestrich arrived at Melissa from Arkansas’ Class 3A Bismarck High School. Prior to that, he was head coach of women’s basketball at Henderson State University in nearby Arkadelphia. Oestreich also led the Austin College men’s basketball program from 1994-2007.

Sessions for this four-day camp ran each day from 9 a.m. to noon. Lending a hand were Melissa assistant coaches JD Clemmons and Gabriel Ramiro. Clemmons is a Lady Cards varsity assistant coach in both basketball and softball, and Ramiro is new to the district and assigned to the middle school. Ramiro hails from Spain and has been in the United States for three years.

After introductions, Oestreich opened camp with some light jogging and several group stretching exercises. From there, they jumped right into passing and receiving drills, ball handling techniques and shooting fundamentals.

Observing from the sidelines was Kim Young, whose 8-year-old daughter Bradyn was taking part in her first Melissa basketball camp. Young said she appreciates the coaching her kids receive at these camps.

“The coaches, number one, are great. [Coach Clemmons] has been at every camp from softball to basketball, boys and girls. They pay such close attention to the kids. And it’s always positive reinforcement. They just teach them good fundamentals.”

Bradyn, Young said, has played Upward Basketball, a faith-based sports ministry offered through First Melissa Baptist church. “She loves basketball and she’s competitive.” Young’s son, Kruz, 6, participated in boys basketball camp in June. “He was so excited,” she said. “He was sweating and smiling the whole time.”

Steve Shuman was there watching his daughters, Aeryn, 12, and Jesse, 10. Shuman taught at Melissa Ridge Intermediate last year and is slated for North Creek Elementary this year.

“It’s a good way during the summer where they can get out and have fun with other kids,” he said, “and be out of the heat — especially right now. … My youngest, she’s never played basketball before and doesn’t know a lot about it but still she’s really athletic. Basketball might be her thing but it might not be her thing. At least she’s out here, learning some skills and getting to know the coaches.”

Oestreich said he hasn’t yet gotten by Melissa’s new high school on Milrany Lane, set to open in August.

“I’m anxious to get over there. I know the move-in date is Wednesday. When we finish up with camp on Wednesday, we’ll jump into starting to move stuff over there. And I’ll get to see the new gym and the new high school for the first time.”

Oestreich noted that Lady Cards games will still be played at the former high school for two more seasons until the second gym is completed at the new location.

Asked how his transition back to Texas is going, Oestreich said, “We’re kind of in a holding pattern right now. We sold our house in Arkansas and we’re still waiting. My wife is working on finding a job over here and once she gets a job we’ll buy a house. So, I’m settled in as much as I can be, either living at my son’s [in McKinney] or living at my parents’ in Sherman. I’ve got a home — kind of like a dorm room,” he laughed.