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Kids find new interests at county sports camp
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Children ride bicycles recently during a summer middle school sports activity camp. The camp, held at Laurel Park Middle School, aims “to broaden kids’ horizons” by exposing them to new physical activities and to keep students physically active rather than watching TV or sitting and playing video games at home, according to camp facilitator Melissa Bowers.The camp is being held Mondays through Thursdays July 7-24. (Bulletin photos by Mike Wray)
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Tuesday, July 22, 2014

By PAUL COLLINS - Bulletin Staff Writer

Student Sophia Esdaile’s renewed interest in basketball and camp instructor/coach Brandon Hairston’s loss of about 15 pounds are two of the success stories stemming from Henry County Public Schools’ summer middle school sports activity camp.

The camp, open to Henry County middle school students, is being held on Mondays through Thursdays July 7-24 at Laurel Park Middle School, according to a camp application. It also was held June 2-19.

Attendance has ranged from about 15 to 28 students, camp facilitator Melissa Bowers said as 17 students and three other instructors/coaches rode bicycles around the school parking lot on Wednesday. Bowers is a physical education teacher at Laurel Park.

Many of the students have come to the camp consistently and some have brought friends, Bowers added. One student even passed up on a trip to Carowinds with a church group to attend the camp, Bowers said.

The instructors/coaches have worked on basic skills and led the students in basketball, baseball, softball, soccer, tag football and some perhaps less well known physical activities such as jailbreak ball (a variation of dodgeball), disc golf and ultimate Frisbee, among others.

Bowers said the camp aims “to broaden kids’ horizons” by exposing them to new physical activities and to keep students physically active rather than watching TV or sitting and playing video games at home.

She said she hopes as a result of going to the camp, students will continue to do some of the physical activities at home with their families.

Breakfast and lunch are served as part of the program.

Hairston said the meals are nutritious, which has helped motivate him to eat more healthfully at home — smaller portions, healthy foods, no sweets and food that is baked instead of fried.

In addition, he has been physically active as he has coached and led campers in sports activities. At home, he has been bicycling, walking and running.

“Since this camp, I’ve lost about 15 pounds,” said Hairston, who is the football coach at Laurel Park.

Hairston said the camp has helped some players on his football team. For example, Jordan Holiday has dropped a few pounds, has improved endurance and has been a leader for some younger campers, Hairston said.

Another of his players benefiting from being physically active at the camp is Triston Martin, Hairston said.

“It’s fun,” Triston said. He is a rising eighth-grader at Laurel Park and plays center and noseguard on the school’s football team.

He said he likes playing flag football at the camp as well as “the new games I haven’t played before” — such as jail ball (or jailbreak ball) and four square. The latter is an elimination ball game played on a court made of squares.

Sharks and minnows (a tag game) was “the funnest game” for Ebony Martin, a rising sixth-grader at Laurel Park.

She also enjoyed other camp activities and said the camp “is really fun.”

She also learned about being a friend to her teammates and encouraging them to get back in the game and keep playing, she said.

Ebony said she hopes to get her family to play flag football with her at home. She had not played that game before the camp.

Justin Williams, a rising seventh-grader at Laurel Park, also said he likes the camp, especially because it gives him something to do this summer.

Sophia Esdaile said of the camp: “I think it’s fun. We do a lot of activities that help us exercise and lose weight.” She is a rising eighth-grader at Laurel Park.

She played parks and rec basketball when she was in grades 2-4 and then stopped because she thought she “couldn’t play very well and gave up.” However, she did shoot hoops at a friend’s house sometimes after that.

As a result of playing basketball at this camp, her interest in basketball has been revived and she wants to continue playing, Sophia said. “I probably won’t play park and rec, but I’ll play with my family,” she said.

In addition to having fun at camp, Sophia has learned such things as how to change gears when riding a bicycle uphill, flag football rules and the importance of cooperation between team members in a game. For instance, she saw a team member yelling at another, and “I don’t think that’s the way to handle that,” she said.

Camp instructor/coach Catherine Wilson, a French teacher and coach at Laurel Park, said she told campers about typical French diet and eating habits as well as their generally physically active lifestyles.

According to data in a report updated this year by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, child and adult obesity rates are both significantly higher in the United States than in France.

Marci Lexa, director of nutrition for Henry County Public Schools, said she came up with the idea for the camp, in part to help address the obesity issue when students are inactive in the summer.

Hairston, now 24, recalled he typically would gain about 10 pounds during the summers when he was growing up because he sat around watching TV and eating snacks. “I wouldn’t be active,” he added.

Lexa said a $5,800 Share Our Strength grant paid for most of the coaches’ salaries.

The fee for campers is $5 per week (which includes breakfast and lunch) to help with camp costs. The cost of the meals will be reimbursed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, Lexa said.

She added she will be seeking additional grants and hopes the camp can expand next summer.


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