By Andrew Cluley
Studies show today’s kids aren’t active enough, and many kids are focusing too much attention on a single sport at a young age. That wasn’t the case this summer at Scarlett Middle School. The pool, gym, tennis courts, and fields around the building saw plenty of fun and activity this summer. For eight weeks, an average of 50 to 70 kids between the ages of 4 and 13 played games, swam, danced, and were otherwise active at the KidSport Camp.
Community Education and Recreation Director Jenna Bacolor says KidSport was a great addition to Rec and Ed’s offerings. “We were excited to partner with Kerry Winkelseth at the U of M School of Kinesiology to offer this multi-sport camp to Ann Arbor children,” Bacolor says. “The KidSport approach — to learn sports skills in a non-competitive environment — is the perfect complement to Rec & Ed’s kid-friendly sports program.”
While the connection with Ann Arbor Public Schools is new, the program just wrapped up it’s 26th year. The program has evolved over the years, but the basic concept remains the same. It gives kids the chance to be active and explore a wide variety of sports and games. KidSport officials, like Assistant Director Courtney Schell, describe it as a fun Physical Education class. “We have so many parents who say my kid’s not sure what they really love yet, this is perfect for them because that’s where they can try things,” Schell says.
The camp was broken up into two parts a morning session where kids played a variety of games, and the afternoon session which kids could pick a different sport each week, while the younger kids would play games and make crafts. Before and after camp care was also available for parents who work all day.
Bacolor says the reopening of the Scarlett pool allowed us to offer swimming lessons as part of the KidSport camp. “Campers improved their swimming skills and enjoyed the water on hot days,” she says.
The pool wasn’t the only advantage the KidSport Camp got from the move to Scarlett. “The facility has been a great bonus for us, having use of the pool all day long, as well as the field space, tennis courts, and being in kind of one area of the building,” Winkelseth says. “At Michigan we were kind of spread out all over the CCRB so it’s kind of nice to be in only one section.”
Moving to Scarlett also made parking easier than when the camp was located on Michigan’s campus. The partnership with Ann Arbor schools also attracted more kids to the camp than in previous years. “We’ve got a lot of new campers, because we were never able to market in the school system or through Rec and Ed,” Schell says.
While the new location has offered some new opportunities, at it’s core the program maintained what made it successful for more than 25 years. A couple of the counselors at KidSport this year attended the camp when they were kids. Stephen Chang is now a student at Grand Valley State University and says it’s great that the new location has allowed the camp to grow and have more children participate. Chang’s greatest take away from attending the camp was just meeting new people. “The fun part of this camp is just meeting new friends, having good experiences and memories,” Chang says.
Chang hopes the camp will help him be a better father when he has kids one day, but for counselors that want to be teachers, especially physical education teachers, it will be a valuable experience. In fact KidSport was originally created as a resume builder for Kinesiology students heading towards a career teaching PE. Winkelseth says counselors learned valuable skills working as a team with kids. “Whether you want to be a teacher or not it really helps you to practice good teaching, good communication skills,” she says.
At the end of the day though the important thing is the program kept kids active this summer. “There are tons of opportunities for kids to sit, we have kids in camp talk about all their video games, so this is a great opportunity to provide them with some fitness opportunities as a balance,” Winkelseth says.