How The Dwyane Wade Celebrity Sports Academy Camp Went Fully Virtual

Organizers of the Dwyane Wade Celebrity Sports Academy reached out to CEEK VR last year with a desire to capture complementary content and assets from its 2019 camps.

Little did they know, the partnership and experience would pay massive dividends a year later.

“When we talked in 2019, we could not have anticipated this year the camp would solely be virtual; we thought this would be a supplement to what they were doing,” CEEK VR founder and CEO Mary Spio said. “If we had not captured the camp last year, it would have been completely overwhelming to make the shift this year to virtual.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the 2020 Celebrity Sports Academy camp was in jeopardy. With registration typically beginning in March, organizers had to take a step back in order to come up with a new plan as shelter-in-place and social distancing measures affected everything from dining out at restaurants to attending sporting events and concerts to going to school.

As the days and weeks crawled and COVID-19 still posed a major threat, organizers again approached CEEK with the plan to make the camp fully virtual.

“We weren’t panicked at first but as time went on, we realized it wasn’t going to be a safe environment to host a camp,” said Jessica Dereschuk McDaniel, Celebrity Sports Academy COO and co-founder. “… Taking a year off we didn’t feel was a great business move. Are you going to pivot and figure this out or are you going to let it bring the business down? 

“We decided to pivot and keep growing as a company despite the circumstances of today’s world.”

The CEEK team captured four weeks’ worth of content—ranging from basketball skills to agility drills—while utilizing UV lights, face masks and other health and safety protocols in one long day of filming in Chicago. Pro athletes including CJ McCollum, Candace Parker, Cappie Pondexter and Andrew Wiggins recorded their messages for campers remotely using CEEK’s proprietary streaming technology.

Camp registration ($85) gives participants access to 24 training videos (six released per week each Monday), pro athlete videos/messaging, live video check-ins with pros and camp coaches on Fridays, and access to CEEK 360VR technology for their computer, tablet or phone whether they have a VR headset or not.

“Giving kids the opportunity during these tough times to develop their game and their mindset is important,” Wade said in a statement. “Having the support from sponsors that see the vision and other athletes helps make Celebrity Sports Academy what it is. We’re thankful for them wanting to align themselves with our business brand, but even more thankful for their love and care to see our student-athletes grow as young people.”

While the camp focuses mainly on sports, it also provides opportunities for players to learn off the court as well, whether it’s hearing from celebrity stylist and designer Calyann Barnett, mental mindset coach Sean Jensen or celebrity chef and nutritionist Richard Ingram.

For Pondexter, a two-time WNBA champion and seven-time all-star, providing opportunities to keep children active and stimulated mentally is more important now than ever amid the pandemic.

“It’s good we have the opportunity to give kids something so they can exercise their mind and develop their game while still doing something they love,” Pondexter said. “I’m just glad D-Wade provided the platform for the kids to still be able to be active. It’s players like that who are still making things possible for these young kids.”

While the camp “closes” on August 21 with a virtual graduation (and downloadable certificate of completion), all of the skills, drills and recorded calls/messages will still be available no matter when someone registers, McDaniel said. The information and technology will continuously be available and promoted through the fall and winter.

Pandemic-permitting, Celebrity Sports Academy hopes to return to in-person camps in 2021, while continuing to further develop online camps with CEEK.

“Our online camp is as in depth, if not even more than our in-person camps,” McDaniel said. “Figuring out how to do it well, and not just put a product out there, but to give them the same camp the CSA name is known for was the tricky part. … I think we continue to still have to find ways to go online and hopefully we’ll be able to complement that with our in-person as well.”

NOTE: First appeared on Forbes SportsMoney

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