Youth Sport Camps make movement fun

Video by Avery Martin

With school out and the sun shining, summer is the best time of year for kids to get outside and get moving!

The Youth Sports Camps, run through Colorado State University’s Department of Health and Exercise Science, aim to show kids just how fun an active lifestyle can be.

The camps, which take place on the CSU campus, are a summer outreach program providing kids in grades K-6 with fun activities during their summer break. The camps serve over 6,000 campers in 16 different camps offered during a 12-week period spanning May – August.

Focus on an active lifestyle

A diverse array of kids in bright colored clothing smile for the camera on the IM fields at CSU.
Campers utilize the intramural fields at CSU for soccer, lacrosse, hockey and basketball.

The camps were started back in the 1970s but the philosophy behind them has changed a lot since then.

“[The camps have] evolved away from the idea that sports are purely about performance to more of a health-based focus, where we are trying to get kids out to be active,” said Senior Teaching Assistant Professor and Youth Sport Camps Director Brian Butki.

“From our perspective, movement is health,” Butki said. “So the more we can promote movement in our community, especially among kids, the better off we are.”

Encouraging movement

A young boy wearing a helmet and harness climbs up a cliff at Duncan's Ridge by Horse tooth Reservoir.
Activities for the campers aren’t limited to the CSU campus. They can climb, bike, hike and kayak in the beautiful natural areas around Fort Collins.

The programs take a three-pronged approach in order to encourage activity among the campers.

“We know that kids are more likely to be active when they are having fun, so our primary goal in these camps is to help kids have fun,” Butki explained.

The second approach focuses on each camper’s skill set, helping them improve their skills in various sports and find one that they are personally good at and love to play. The sports offered range from swimming and soccer to mountain biking and rock climbing, so there is a place for everyone to find a sport that they are passionate about.

The third approach is through role-modeling. The camps hire 70 staff members each year, mostly CSU students majoring in health and exercise science, who have a passion for movement and love working with kids. The counselors will often coach sports that they themselves have never played, serving as a role model for the campers and encouraging them to have fun and trying something new.

Active counselors

A counselor holds two girls to her hips as they all swim together in the pool at CSU's Moby Arena.
Campers and counselors can quickly become friends, and the counselors ensure that everyone has a positive attitude throughout the week.

“We hire the counselors who just genuinely want to be active,” Butki explained. “It’s not uncommon for a counselor to come up to me and say ‘hey, you know what, I want to try lacrosse. I’ve never tried it before but I get to do lacrosse today,’ and that’s a fantastic attitude to have because it’s contagious.”

Butki explained that exercise is usually painted as a bad thing, and he often hears people say ‘I have to exercise.’ He wants to ensure that the camps focus on the ‘I get to be active’ mindset.

Castle Rock expansion

Two organizations in Castle Rock, the Town Parks and Recreation and the CSU Regional Engagement Hub partnered to bring the Youth Sport Camps to the community this summer for the first time. The program hit on a great opportunity as the initial registration goal of 500 kids was topped by 223 for a total of 723 youth.

“The Castle Rock camps exceeded our expectations, by considerable margin, in terms of both registration numbers and programmatic success,” said Butki.

Mike Kilman, the Recreation Manager of the Town of Castle Rock Parks and Recreation was excited about the enhanced recreational opportunities offered to the area’s residents.

“Working with CSU has been very productive and allowed both of our staffs to generate dynamic and innovative options for the community. We look forward to a long relationship and continuing development of new classes in the future,” said Kilman.

The partnership hopes to expand the camps next year and explore new opportunities to use the facilities available in Castle Rock. Registration for the Summer 2019 for the Castle Rock camps will start on January 21.

A girl rides a mountain bike down a single track trail surrounded by green fields and trees.
Fort Collins is the perfect place to encourage kids to get outside and get moving!

Seeing results in the classroom

“We know that physical activity and healthy nutrition have a dynamic and amazing effect on the brain,” said Butki.

Keeping kids active during the summer helps them be more mentally adept and prepared for the school year to come.

“What we are really trying to teach these kids is that a physically active lifestyle, is a healthy lifestyle,” said Butki. “I have the perfect job!”

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