Monday, August 9, 2021

Happiness and glee fills air at sport camps

By Darren Steinke
Gordie Howe Sports Complex

Two youngsters take part in a Spark Park ultimate Frisbee game.
Kids are being allowed to be kids again during the summer months at the Gordie Howe Sports Complex.

In July and currently in August, children and young athletes have had lots of chances to become active on the Complex grounds. They’ve had the option of taking part in weekly Spark Park Summer Sport Camps run by Ignite Athletics in partnership with the Complex and weekly track and field camps overseen by the Running Wild Athletics Club.

With activities in the 2020-21 school year hampered by restrictions and Public Health Orders that were brought in to battle the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Jason Price, who is one of two coordinators for the Spark Park Summer Sport Camps, said it has been huge to get kids active again.

“There was that serious lack of sports going on throughout the year,” said Price. “Just getting them back into the groove of moving, running and playing catch – all the kind of your basic physical literacy is pretty important for these kids.”

Taylor McGregor, who is the other coordinator for the Spark Park Summer Sports Camps, said the kids have been excited and happy to do things they would usually do.

“I think it also provided a little bit of normal for the kids after the school year that they had just with the masks and everything,” said McGregor. “I think it was a lot on them, so this has kind of provided them an opportunity to have fun and feel a little bit of normal in their lives again.”

Gisele George, who is the Running Wild Athletics Track Camp coordinator, said the children and young athletes that have attended their camps have had a little extra jump in their step being back at the Track and Field Track.

“I think after a whole year of not being anywhere I think it was an awesome experience to get out and to be at the track again,” said George.

The Spark Park camps took place for the first time ever last year and have been even more popular this year. The participants are divided into groups for those aged five to eight and those aged nine to 12.

A young athlete throws a javelin at a Running Wild track camp.
The camp coaches introduce the youngsters to various sports and games throughout the week.

“We kind of start a little bit more structured,” said McGregor. “Our weeks will start with we have two football sessions, two baseball, two Frisbee, two soccer, track and field and Spark Park.

“They kind of have two sessions of that to start off the week, so they get an opportunity to try everything. As the week progresses, they will kind of choose what they like and the groups kind of go with that.”

Price said the most popular sports for the participants seems to change on a week to week basis. For some of the groups aged five to eight, he said it has been popular to play games like tag or just run through obstacle courses in the Spark Park room at the Indoor Training Centre.

“Some weeks, we have a group where most of them will bring their baseball gloves and their baseball bats,” said Price. “You know baseball is going to be a big thing that week.

“Some groups get really into Frisbee, because just the throwing and catching aspect of it is fun for them. Ultimate Frisbee is a pretty easy game to get going. They are definitely very engaged in that one.

“The kids seem to be enjoying pretty much all the sports that we throw their way. After they kind of get the fundamentals down, we have it set up so that coaches can have the kids decide what they want to do.”

The Running Wild Athletics Club Track Camps are used to both introduce young athletes to track and field and as a training opportunity for current members of the club.

Last year, Running Wild ran their summer camps on the dirt track at E.D. Feehan Catholic High School. This year, a little extra excitement was added due to the fact the Running Wild camps have been held at the new Track and Field Track facility that opened on the Gordie Howe Sports Complex grounds in 2019.

Two youngsters run an obstacle course in the Spark Park room.
In July, the Running Wild camp hosted a sizable contingent that came from the Montreal Lake Cree Nation, which is located about 100 kilometres north of Prince Albert and an interest showed through.

“They really enjoyed the throwing events,” said George. “We did some javelin and shot put.

“The hands on of those I think was quite good. They really enjoyed those events.”

During a weekly session, coaches at the Running Wild camp spent time teaching and developing the youngsters the various events that make up track and field. 

Those sessions built up to a simulated competition at the end of the week.

“We rounded the week off doing our mini-Olympics, which kind of showcased what the kids kind of like the most or attached on to,” said George. “That was kind of cool.

“We saw some kids throwing javelin farther than we ever expected, so that was pretty awesome to see.”

Following those mini-Olympics, the week concluded with the youngsters getting a chance to go through a short obstacle course. The course was run with lots of laughs and glee.

“It is just something fun that had a little bit of everything,” said George. “It had a little bit of running and jumping and some agilities.

“That is just something that we throw in there, because not everybody is good at everything, but everybody is good at something.”

George said a few other fun variables were also added to the Running Wild camp to help make it memorable for the participants.

Two youngsters race at the Running Wild track camp.
“We had the tie-dyed T-shirts happening, so it wasn’t just all about track,” said George. “They were able to take those home.

“Overall, I think the kids had a great experience and all the coaches did. I know I did. Hopefully, we see them at the track again for sure.”

George has enjoyed seeing the youngster that take part in the Running Wild camps head home with big smiles on their faces.

McGregor has seen a similar site at the Spark Park Summer Sport Camps along with positive feedback from parents.

“I think that is honestly the biggest piece of feedback that we’ve gotten is that they’re tired and they are having fun and they will come back and next time they will bring their friends with them,” said McGregor. “I think that reassures us that we’re doing something right and providing them with kind of a unique opportunity to participate in a bunch of different things and have fun while doing that.”