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Thursday, 07 July 2016 13:13

Sports camps popular at UW-W, Beloit College

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Youth athletic camps started at UW-Whitewater on June 19, including elite wrestling, bowling and girls basketball. Youth athletic camps started at UW-Whitewater on June 19, including elite wrestling, bowling and girls basketball. UW-Whitewater Continuing Education Graphics

Much has changed since Allan Sherman penned his Grammy-winning “Hello Muddah, Hello Fadduh” in 1963, a jingle about the fictional Camp Granada that he based on his son’s actual letters home while attending summer camp.

However, parents can rest easy when it comes to youth sports camps because the Stateline area boasts topnotch facilities and instructors.

The University of Wisconsin-Whitewater’s athletic camps began June 19 and run through Aug. 5, with options including wrestling, bowling, gymnastics, volleyball, football, tennis, basketball, wheelchair hoops, soccer and cross-country.

Meanwhile, the 18th annual Beloit College youth sports camp is scheduled July 18-22. Boys and girls ages 5 through 14 will participate at the Sports Center, which includes the basketball and volleyball courts, the field house, pool, tennis and racquetball courts and surrounding athletic fields.

Frank Barnes and Jon Urish may be a bit biased because they are employed at the two schools, but both said their children continue to benefit from such summertime experiences.

“Our athletic department and coaching staff have been very stable and most of our directors have been running camps for at least seven to 10 years, so it’s a well-oiled machine,” said Barnes, who has coached the UW-Whitewater men’s tennis team since 2002 and the women’s squad since 2003 and runs one of the best camp programs in the country.

The Janesville resident’s daughters -- Annie, 12, and Lucy, 11 -- attended a UW-Whitewater softball camp two years ago and are participating in tennis for a second straight year, a program Barnes oversees that features 80 workers and 700 youth/adult athletes over a combined 37 days. He also coaches his daughters’ softball team, while the family is active in water skiing.

Campers learn on, off field

Annie Barnes said the camps have enhanced her appreciation for the sports and have taught her lessons on and off the field.

“I like softball because our (local) team has become close and hangs out a lot, and there’s always something to do (playing it),” said the eldest Barnes sister, who will attend Franklin Middle School in Janesville next fall. “I love tennis because it’s really fun to focus on different aspects of the game, like my serve.

“What I really like about the camps is the independence,” she added. “We learn something, and even though the coaches always are there to help, we get to go off by ourselves. Once we get it, we can go work on it.”

Urish and his wife, Amanda, are former athletes, he having been a three-sport participant in Mount Morris, Illinois, and a baseball player for the Bucs and she a standout in soccer at Hononegah High School.

Needless to say, the Beloit College camp has been a rite of summer for their three boys and two girls, who range in age from 5 to 15 and attend Rock County Christian School.

“Our kids start asking in May or June whether they’ll be doing camp again,” said Urish, who has spent nearly all of his 20 years at the college in the admissions/financial aid office. “What I like about how Brian (Bliese) runs it is that it’s low-key, because a lot of kids are not high-level athletes and this allows them to get outside, be active and gain exposure to many sports.

“Although they break the sessions down according to age and ability, kids of all ages get to interact, and it’s neat to see the older kids working with the younger ones,” Urish said. “They get to develop relationships with others they didn’t know. And the ultimate benefit is that the kids sleep so well that week.”

The busy Urish children have participated in everything from wrestling, baseball, basketball, soccer, dance and gymnastics through the YMCA and/or Beloit schools. And it’s that variety and multisport approach that many coaches prefer.

Big-time operations

And variety is the focus at the Beloit College camp, which isn’t nearly as big as the Whitewater operation. However, it has grown from about 25 kids to over 100 since Bliese took over the role as director about 12 years ago.

“The format has remained pretty much the same … basically we’re providing a service to the community by offering a variety of sports in a fun atmosphere that gives kids a chance to meet new kids,” said Bliese, the Bucs head men’s and women’s track coach and cross country coordinator. “We divide them up by age and they play games with their peers or kids of the same ability levels. Every 40 minutes they rotate to a different activity, with 15-minute breaks. So, by the end of the week they participate in all of the activities. And each day they all have a lunch break and see a movie together.

“Parents love it because the cost is very low for what they get,” Bliese said. “And the kids improve their skills to a degree, they enjoy a positive experience, build self-confidence and they stay active.”

His staff will include former Buccaneer athlete Stephanie Marsh, who is the girls track coach at Hononegah; Bucs head cross-country coach and track assistant Dave Eckburg, who teaches art at South Beloit High School and is an original sports camp staff member; and head swimming and diving coach and aquatics director Kevin Schober.

Janesville Parker graduate and former Warhawks pitcher Ryan Callahan is the director of Continuing Education Services: Camps and Conferences, which is an immense undertaking of organization and coordination.

“The numbers we’re working with are pretty crazy,” Callahan said. “We have about 6,000 or more participating in summer camps, but during our last fiscal year, which ended May 15, we had 19,300 total for all of our programs. That’s because we host a lot of nonaffiliated camps, such as the Milwaukee Brewers holding clinics here. We hire over 700 people every summer.”

Callahan helps camp directors with marketing strategies and pricing, but he credits the UW-W coaches and their staffs for making everything a success.

“We’re very fortunate in having excellent camp directors in place,” Callahan said. “We’re always looking for ways to generate income, and many of our (athletic) programs use these camps to meet 75 percent of their needs. They use a lot of former and current collegiate athletes to help and teach at their camps, and getting these good people is why we have such a great product.”

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