HENRY COUNTY, Ga. (CW69 News at 10) -- Several hundred kids are learning valuable skills from some sports legends in Henry County this week. The Shaquille O'Neal Foundation and the Henry County Sheriff's Office are hosting Sports Spectacular 2022, where they're giving kids the tools to succeed in both sports and life.
When Shaq arrived at McDonough High School on Monday, coaches had a hard time getting the more than 500 excited kids to calm down at their first three-day Sports Spectacular, where they're coaching third through eighth graders in four different sports, including baseball and basketball.
"He's the best player ever, I'm just so happy that he came, so happy that I came to camp," said Gavin Zawroski, 12.
"He's my personal role model. I'm trying to be the next him. It's just amazing to get my role model and to win a game in front of him," said Raiden Gunsby, 13.
"It's better now that we get to talk and he's interacting with us instead of just taking pictures," said Raiden's 14-year-old brother, Zain Gunsby.
"We have a lot of children that, during the summer time, are in limbo," said Shaq. He invited former Otis Nixon, a former Braves center fielder, and other sports greats to help coach them through some life and sports lessons.
"I'm doing it with Shaquille O'Neal and other guys around here so we can save our kids in this community," Nixon said.
"Definitely, for these next three days, keep kids out of trouble and just inspire them," said Shaq. It's something he's been doing as the Henry County Sheriff's Office Director of Community Relations. He said it's also about inspiring kids to do well in school, as he reflected on the "No Pass, No Play" rule. He recalled asking, "If I don't get a C, I can't play?"
The kids were more than eager to learn and cheer each other on. "What they don't understand is I'm giving them the answers to the test. This is how I became who I am. This is what I did. They can use that and create their own path," said Shaq.
The coaches made it clear that greatness requires discipline and respect. "Before they pick up a baseball, I make them say, 'Yes, sir. No, sir. Yes, ma'am. No ma'am,'" said Nixon.
"I got whatever I wanted in the world by listening to my mama. Listen to your mama first. Listen to your daddy," Shaq said.
The camp is also a bridge connecting law enforcement and the community.
The sky is the limit, so I just tell these kids, look, 'Follow your dreams, stay out of trouble, and you can become anything you want."
The three-day spectacular includes volleyball and football camps that begin on Tuesday. Shaq hopes to hold longer camps in the future.
for more features.