Why try one sport when you can try them all?
During the summer months, Husker Kids camp brings kids to the University of Nebraska–Lincoln Campus Recreation Center for a chance to play nearly every sport available at the facility and develop active lifestyle habits.
“We want them to experience a lot of different things and just enjoy being out and playing and having fun and doing it in a safe environment,” said Brian Stelzer, assistant director of sports programs.
The camp is open to any children entering second through sixth grade. The camp runs eight weeklong sessions, with the last session ending Aug. 4. Each week has a theme, like superheroes, the Olympics or the Wild West, with activities geared toward that theme. Campers often spend the morning outdoors at a tennis court, sand volleyball court or field before it gets too hot, and then come back to the center for the afternoon to play at one of the indoor courts. They also swim every day and do a craft once during each session.
They get to play football, soccer, basketball and more, but with a twist. In one kickball-inspired game Stelzer calls “Three Ball Do-It-All,” the kicker kicks three balls and the fielders must get a color-coded ball to its assigned base to stop the runner. In “Captain Basketball,” campers play basketball, but aren’t allowed to dribble. They move the ball by passing.
“Instead of playing with a soccer ball, we’re going to get an American football and see how that thing bounces when you’re trying to play soccer with it,” Stelzer said.
Each session also involves a field trip, like bowling or a visit to the University of Nebraska State Museum at Morrill Hall, and a special event like a visit from University Police and therapy dog, Cash.
On average, the camp hosts around 100 kids each week, Stelzer said. The program started in 1992 and is mostly staffed by university students. Part of the mission of the camp, Stelzer said, is to promote lifelong habits of wellness and staying active.
“It’s easy to get stuck behind a computer desk or anything else,” Stelzer said. “Getting some enjoyment out of being out and running around and playing with your friends is important. If you’re not getting that as a kid, you’re certainly not going to get out and be as active as an adult.”
Sophia Thomas, a Husker Kids counselor who graduated with a bachelor’s degree in political science in May, said one of her goals as a counselor is to teach the kids not only athletic skills ,but other skills that will serve them for the rest of their lives.
“It teaches them how to be a teammate, how to be a leader,” Thomas said. “They’re still very young, but the more skills they learn here the better they’re going to be in the future,” she said.
Thomas said it was important to make sure all the kids felt welcome. Some have more interest in sports than others, so they try to have something for everyone.
“We try to get everyone involved no matter what,” she said. “Most of them definitely want to get involved with the sports, but if they’re not that type of kid, we try to find other things for them to do like cards or board games.”
Stelzer said the variety of activities in any given day helps the camp reach each camper. Football might resonate with one while basketball or soccer does with another.
“It’s about finding experiences that resonate with kids and giving them the joy that comes with being out and being physically active,” he said.
Connecting kids with multiple activities encourages them to remain active throughout their lives. Stelzer said kids now often focus on one sport, but having experience in many sports will give them more options as they get older.
“You’re getting a wide range so when you can’t play basketball anymore you go, ‘I can still play tennis,’ or you can go play golf or whatever the case may be,” Stelzer said.
While Campus Rec mostly serves the university community, it also offers additional programming to the larger Lincoln community. During the school year, the center hosts sessions of Itty Bitty Sports, a program for kids ages 3 to 5. Each session meets for one hour every week for six weeks. A session on sports development begins in September and one on basketball begins in October. This program aims focuses on individual progress and parent/guardian and child interaction. Each child is required to have at least one adult who can participate. More information is available on the Campus Recreation website.