Video by Allie Ruckman
For nearly 50 years, the Department of Health and Exercise Science has opened its doors each summer to the youth in the Front Range area to get active and engage in healthy movement through sports.
Initially established in 1970, the Youth Sport Camps were created to keep kids active during the summer. On the 49th anniversary of the camps, the mission of keeping local kids active and healthy remains the same.
Movement is health
The camps feature 16 different summer camp programs with activities ranging from schoolyard classics such as soccer and basketball, to alternative sports such as dance, rock climbing and martial arts. Each of the camps places an emphasis on the importance of moving within sports rather than solely skill or perfection.
“Movement truly equals health,” Youth Sport Camps director and health and exercise science professor Brian Butki said, alluding to the department’s motto.
“For the kids that participate in the camps, this is the message we want to reinforce, and it’s a message they need to get early on,” Butki said.
Serving as camp director for 16 years, Butki has witnessed youth fitness trends first-hand. It is no secret that modern-day children engage in consistent movement and activity outdoors less than past generations. The Youth Sport Camps vow to disrupt this trend by simply making movement fun.
Butki cites using three methods to inspire kids to get active: doing well, having fun, and having great role models.
“We set up programming that promotes excellence, but we also create an environment that lets the kids have fun regardless of their abilities,” Butki said.
When the kids excel at a particular sport, they are encouraged internally and externally to continue working at their craft. All methods point back in the direction of having fun, interacting with others and staying active.
Leaving lasting impressions
Promoting movement within the camps is not the only priority for Butki and his staff of over 70 mostly Health and Exercise Science students who serve as coordinators, counselors and swim instructors. The Youth Sport Camps hope to ignite a lifelong love for movement in the participants that they can bring home to inspire their loved ones.
“I consider it a win when I hear a camper say to one of their parents ‘Hey can we go for a bike ride, or throw the football?’” Butki said. “That means that we got a kid to catch the movement bug – they want to be active and want to make movement a part of their life. When we do that, we’ve won!”
In addition to prioritizing fun and physical fitness, the camp is also a summer destination that promotes safety and well-being for children.
“We always want to let the kids know that they’re safe here, and it’s especially important that their parents know that their kids are safe and cared for,” Youth Sport Camps assistant director Katie Heitz said.
The care that the participants receive from the staff ultimately translates to care that the kids provide to one another, and themselves.