- Associated Press - Saturday, April 11, 2020

MAGNOLIA, Miss. (AP) - The spread of coronavirus has caused the shutdown to many sports and activities across the country.

But for Cornelia Gayden and her Rainin’ 3 Hoops School, it has only altered her plans.

Instead of having kids come together at one central location for the camp which is still prohibited at this time, Gayden is the one doing the traveling.

She is driving around visiting some of her campers at their homes watching them perform their basketball drills.

To maintain safety, Gayden has been monitoring from a safe distance while staying in her vehicle.

“Do it at home and act as if we are doing it in the gym and we are running a training session,” Gayden said. “I really take pride that Rainin’ 3 Hoops School preaches discipline, self-motivation, work ethic and good sportsmanship. Since this COVID-19 pandemic, I’ve been able to see the fruits of my labor with the players that I train.”

In addition to working with kids in her spare time, Gayden is also the the Community Engagement and Communications Coordinator with the McComb School District.

Gayden got the idea to do the visits after some of her trainees sent videos to her via social media showing how they are doing their drills at home while practicing safe measures due to coronavirus.

“I see the videos that they are sending me and it is as if I am there,” she said. “It is overwhelming to see the process and the program really works.”

But while Gayden was thankful to see the videos from some of the many kids who she works with and trains, she wanted to see it first-hand in a safe manner.

And with the restrictions put in place causing Gayden to alter her plans, the steps that she is taking to make sure her kids are properly training, as if they were at the camp, is all part of what her program entails.

“Much like I train and the philosophy that I use to work with my players, is that if you can’t do it this way, then there is another way to do it,” she said. “So sometimes road blocks come up and you have to figure out how to get it done in spite of whatever it is that you are dealing with. That is just the Rainin’ 3 philosophy. You cannot take no for an answer, you have to find a way to get it done, and they believe that.”

Two of the kids who Gayden works with in her program are the Johnson sisters, 10th-grader Shayla and fifth-grader Raqi. Gayden spent some time recently working with the Johnsons on some of their dribbling drills at their home outside of Magnolia.

“This is a special moment considering that we go to her about three to four times a week,” Shayla said. “For everything to stop it has been really sad and heartbreaking. But for her to come here, it is a special moment because she can see what we can do with a basketball outside the gym.”

Raqi said that performing outdoors adds a bit of a different element to the game, adding that it is essential to continue to put in the work on a consistent basis.

Gayden stresses that her program is more than teaching young men and women the fundamentals of the game, but also important life lessons like getting good grades in school and maintaining them.

“Basketball with Cornelia is not just basketball,” said Shannon Johnson, Raqi and Shayla’s mother. “It is life lessons and you get what you earn with her. Everyone that has been brought up (by her program) has been impacted greatly. Gayden has been a God-send to the Johnson family. She continues to amaze us day by day.”

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