Summer Youth Sport Camps provide physical activity and social connection for children

Video by Ashur Lockrem

The Colorado State University Department of Health and Exercise Science has wrapped up its 51st year of Youth Sport Camps. The camps have continued to promote healthy and active lifestyles for children while emphasizing fun and wellbeing. With the global pandemic, the camp has looked different over the course of the last two years, however, this year’s Youth Sport Camps succeeded in providing kids a sense of normalcy they haven’t felt or experienced in well over a year.

The Youth Sport Camps provide an opportunity for local youth to engage in a variety of physical and social activities. The camp’s main goal, providing a fun-filled, active summer for Fort Collins’ youth was accomplished as the camps saw over 1,733 unique campers this summer, many of them attending multiple weeks of camp.

‘Redefining’ the purpose of the camp

The camps followed public health guidelines to keep campers healthy. In spite of some restrictions, the camps still allowed for communication and friendships to be built between campers, for bonding and collaboration between counselors, as well as providing campers the chance to socialize. For some, it had been over a year since they have been around a large group of kids their age.

The pandemic has caused coordinators and counselors to re-assess the importance of Youth Sport Camps, not only being active and getting out of the house the value of social interaction has also been taken more into consideration.

Sam Whittaker, a recent graduate of CSU who has worked with the Youth Sport Camps for three years, talks about how the pandemic has shaped how he now views Youth Sport Camps.

“The pandemic has caused coordinators to re-think what this camp is all about,” said Whittaker who served as the basketball camp coordinator. “A lot of these kids, especially due to COVID, this is the first time that they’ve seen a lot kids their own age in more than a year, and especially the younger kids, this might be the first time they’ve ever had sort of interaction with a large group of kids. I think that has really impacted how we think about this camp and we have really worked to make that social interaction a pillar of what we’re all about.”

Something for everyone

Campers who attend Youth Sport Camps have a plethora of options as to which camp they participate in. There were 17 different camps offered this year. There are eight total singular sport camps such as Baseball, Softball, Basketball, Golf, Inline Hockey, Lacrosse, Soccer, Tennis, and Volleyball. Offered alongside singular sports camps was a Super Sport Camp (multiple sports per week), two different Outdoor Adventure camps, a Sport Science camp, the Smart Fit Girls camp (aimed to improve the mental and physical well-being of adolescent girls), a Music and Movement camp and a FunLIFE camp (LIFE: Learning to Improve Fitness and Eating).

Two boys smile in a field while playing capture the flag.
The Super Sport camps allowed participants to play many sports throughout their camp week.

This summer also saw field trips return to the campers’ experience. Campers were able to go to the pool more often, explore and interact with different places in Fort Collins, as well as combine with other camp groups, connecting every Friday for Spirit Day, a celebration to cap off of their fun-filled week.

Sophie Ryan, a senior at CSU majoring in health and exercise science and the volleyball camp coordinator, reflects on her experience at camp this summer and the positive impact of being able to interact with other counselors and for other campers to interact with one another.

“Our Friday moments bring all of the kids and counselors together,” said Ryan. “It’s a great bonding experience for everyone involved. The Fridays of camp are definitely a good time.”

Stimulating and engaging youth, whose last 18-months of life have primarily lived through a screen and at home, was a strong point of emphasis in this year’s camp and it was accomplished by counselors and coordinators. Staff provided numerous activities and options to engage a diverse group of over 1,700 students!

Promoting healthy lifestyles

After two summers of operation during a global pandemic, the purpose of camp has grown and become as important as it has ever been. Stimulating and engaging youth was a strong point of emphasis in this year’s camp to counteract some of the unhealthy lifestyle traits kids developed.

“Most of those campers have been at least partially homebound for the past 18 months, so their activity levels, both physical and social, have been significantly reduced,” said Brian Butki, senior teaching assistant professor in the Department of Health and Exercise Science and director of Youth Sport Camps. “We know how important physical activity is for children, for mental, physical, and social health – and parents know that as well. As such, the physical activity and social connections that the camps provide are more important now than they have ever been.”

At a time in which HES’s Youth Sport Camps were needed the most, the counselors and directors came through for the youth of Northern Colorado. Campers will be taking away social and physical skills that will last a lifetime staying true to their promise that “Movement truly equals health.” Find more scenes of this year’s Youth Sport Camps on our Flickr.

The Department of Health and Exercise Science is a part of CSU’s College of Health and Human Sciences