Berliner Sports Park may be known for its large diamond-shaped balls and professional softball tournaments, but for four days in June the park is filled with more than 100 young athletes who can dribble a ball, score a goal, or hold in hand. a hockey stick for the ultimate. first time.
The Community Youth Camp is a sports sampling program run by the Columbus Foundation and the Greater Columbus Sports Commission that aims to introduce disadvantaged children between the ages of 6 and 12 to sports they might not otherwise be exposed to.
Last week it was held at the Berliner Sports Park and a second session will take place from Tuesday to June 24 at KIPP Columbus, with registration ending on Friday.
“It’s really just an opportunity to introduce all of these different sports … even to a variety of children who may not have access to those sports, both in their communities and at school,” said Erica Williams, event manager at the committee. sporty.
Community Youth Camp: introduction to children of more sports
The camp introduces children to four new sports a day, one hour at a time. This gives them enough time to learn the fundamentals from pro and former pro athletes – like Frankie Hejduk, who played for the Columbus Crew – or from volunteers, Williams said.
Connor Sexton, 7, said he was excited and nervous about playing basketball for the first time last year when he took part in the court for the first time. Westerville’s boyfriend said he was worried about looking like a bad player in front of his peers.
“I didn’t know where or how to shoot and dribble,” he said.
After learning the basics, Connor gained confidence and found it was easier to make friends with other campers.
Four years ago, Eric Archibald, senior director of events for the sports commission, sat down with other staff members to review the demographics of Columbus area residents who have access to its sporting events, programs and fundraisers.
The Sports Commission is responsible for much of the growing track and field industry in the Franklin County area. Since its founding in 2002, the organization has booked more than 550 local events.
“The main goal of the sports commission is to generate an economic impact for our community,” Archibald said. “But what are we doing for those families and really those children, those boys and girls, who don’t have access to certain activities that other families have?”
There are multiple factors that can limit a child or family’s access to playing or watching sports, Williams said, including finances, transportation, knowledge and exposure.
The camp was structured taking into account these barriers to entry. The sports commission has worked with outside organizations such as the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department to identify areas of opportunity or communities where a large population of residents does not have the time, money, or access to sports in their neighborhoods.
The camp costs $ 250 and covers breakfast, lunch, and two snacks a day, along with camp shirts and sports equipment that they can take home with them. There is a scholarship fund supported by community sponsors and partners that covers the costs to participate for those who are approved.
“A lot of times it’s just that financial access,” Williams said. “So, we are really proud that over 85 percent of our campers here have a scholarship to come to the camp, so this is the camp, the fees are fully covered.”
In addition to sports, campers organize group activities to teach them topics such as self-care, empowerment or team building.
“For me it’s more like a break from all sports and more like a … relaxing time,” said 11-year-old Annika Kramer of life lessons.
Kramer is a Girl Scout from Butler Farms, Obetz, with a busy schedule of troop reunions, guitar lessons, and other summer camps. Community Youth Camp gives her the chance to try out many sports in a short period of time.
“I see what I want, so I don’t have to commit to sports for a whole year,” he said.
Meghan Sexton, Connor’s mom and a contract worker with the sports commission, said she witnessed the impact life lessons had on her son two days after the program started. Some of Connor’s group campers encouraged him to call another boy a name.
“The kid started crying and Connor immediately walked over and put his hand around him and said, you know, it was okay,” she said. “One of yesterday’s life lessons was about cooperation and also about collaboration, and just being a leader.”
Community youth camp
Where is it: KIPP Columbus, 2900 Inspire Drive
When: Tuesday and will last until 24 June
Registration: It closes on Friday; scholarship applications are available online at community.columbussports.org/youth-camp