Inside Young Gymnasium on Monday morning, two dozen children learned how to toss a Frisbee. Just down the hill, more preteens were taught how to serve and return a tennis ball.
Earlier in the day, another batch of kids were taught how to karate chop. In the days to come, more than 100 kids will be taught the basics behind bowling a strike, firing an arrow from a bow, or canoeing on Carthage’s Kellogg Lake.
For the 26th year, Missouri Southern State University’s Kinesiology Department sponsored the Children’s Lifetime Sports Academy, a sports camp for children ages 7 to 12.
But according to camp coordinator Stephanee Schiding, this isn’t your typical summer sports camp.
“There are a lot of sports camps out there that are sports-specific, like football camp, basketball camp, baseball camp — and those are fantastic, but the reason why our (camp) is designed is because we wanted a camp where kids could come and learn lifetime sports skills.”
Lifetime sports are activities that can be enjoyed from childhood well into adulthood. Such pursuits can range anywhere from bicycling and playing nine holes of golf to jogging around the neighborhood, backpacking at a state park or playing backyard badminton. Kids also learn the types of life skills they’ll need as they enter adulthood — namely, compassion, self-discipline and teamwork.
“These are the types of things they can do forever,” Schiding said, no matter their occupation, location or age.
During the four-day Children’s Lifetime Sports Academy, the “campers” will participate in an array of activities — pickleball, fishing and fly-fishing, swimming, archery, bowling, 9 Square in the Air, golfing and, new this year, a fly/fish lure creation station.
“These are things they can go out and do for a lifetime,” Schiding said. “Now, I’m not saying you can’t play basketball or football for a lifetime, but here we focus on lifetime sports, so they can get a sampling of a lot of different activities.”
That is important, she said, “because if a child doesn’t like one thing, they might like something else.”
The participants who were sailing flying discs and learning precision karate kicks appeared to be having fun. As did 7-year-old Alice Fletcher-Fierro celebrated with her pals when her disc hit a target’s center circle. Nearby, Liam Faruk, also 7, knocked down plastic bowling pins with a perfectly tossed disc. and during the earlier karate session, Nolan Mattes, 7, was enjoying the intricacies of the martial art and the discipline it teaches.
The academy, Schiding said, is probably more important than ever before.
“We live in a technological world,” she said. “We also live in a scary world where people don’t send their children outside alone as often as they need to, so this is a week where kids aren’t on technology. From the time it starts to the time it ends they are active and having fun and making connections with other (kids) and with other role models from college.”
The campers weren’t the only individuals learning skills Monday morning, however. So were the dozens of Southern kinesiology students serving as camp counselors. The camp is a requirement for the university’s physical education majors, Schiding said, “and it gives them experience working with younger kids.”
Senior Spyncer Chambers said the Children’s Lifetime Sports Academy “is just a great opportunity to give back to the kids and to the community.”
He’s learning to become a physical therapist, and he said working with the smaller children is key to that future, since he could very well be dealing with kids at that age as a professional.
“Hopefully we’ll have no injuries out here today, and I won’t have to use any of my skills,” he said,
Luckily he didn’t have to, though several children did stumble and fall during the flying disc session, causing Kaitlyn Collins to grab some bags of ice as they recuperated.
Southern senior Levi Duley, a high school football player and now assistant coach at Carl Junction, was walking up and down the line of the disc-tossing kids, bending down to speak to several, encouraging others, and helping some catch and throw.
“I love it,” he said. This was his first time participating in the academy. He plans to be a strength and conditioning coach at the high school level. However, if that doesn’t pan out, he said, he would definitely love to work with children between the ages of 7 and 12.
This week’s sports camp “just gives them opportunities to do some really cool stuff that they might not get to do,” Duley said, “and it gets them out of the house and outdoors.”