Some kids were born to love athletics. Others participate reluctantly or only when heavily bribed. No matter what your child’s ability or interest level, there’s no need for him or her to spend the summer playing video games on the couch. Baltimore’s Child has found sports camps and opportunities for all types of kids.
Calling all jocks
For your serious soccer player, Baltimore’s own professional team, the Blast, runs a summer camp that employs its own team members as coaches, alongside area college players and other instructors. Summer at Friends also offers a range of sports camps for kids who want to dive deeply into a single sport, says camp director Steve Cusick.
“Our Sports Camp is unique in several ways,” he says. First, it’s a coed camp for ages 7 to 12. “Each week we focus on a single sport — tennis, soccer, baseball or basketball. Campers spend the morning on the sport of the week covering fundamentals, agility, problem-solving skills and teamwork.”
They then round out the day with instructional swim and tennis.
“We’ve worked hard to build a sports camp that is truly instructional,” he says. “We have campers who arrive with no experience and campers who arrive with previous experience. With our small group sizes and awesome coaches, we’re able to help everybody get better — and have fun.”
Get out and play
Multisport camp options abound in Baltimore. At UMBC camps, there are specialty counselors for martial arts, fitness, dance and tennis. Every camper does each of those activities twice a week. They also rotate with their groups throughout the day and play a variety of other sports and games such as basketball, flag football, soccer and volleyball, as well as camp games such as capture the flag.
“We try to make it easy for campers to find something that interests them,” says camp director Michael Kopajtic. “All of our camps have a mix of indoor and outdoor activities, and all of our campers swim every day. Many campers mix and match, taking a few weeks of different programs throughout the summer.”
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The university offers more than 20 camps, so the staff feels they have ones that fit most interests. Summer is a great time to try something new, Kopajtic says, and camp is a way for kids to make new friends, create great memories and gain new skills.
All sports all the time
ESF Camp, at the Gilman School, offers a multisport camp called SportsLab for kids in grades one through nine. Beginner, intermediate and experienced athletes play two to three sports each day, with additional swim and recreation time. The five core sports are basketball, soccer, baseball, lacrosse and flag football. Campers can then choose sports that include European team handball (an Olympic sport), street hockey and swimming.
“Our goals are for every camper to develop their skills and build confidence while having serious fun,” says ESF’s Claire McClain, who says their sports program was designed through the research and development of Dr. Jim Loehr, a sports psychologist who has coached more than 17 of the world’s top-ranking athletes in six different sports.
Lacrosse (of course)
Camp isn’t the only way to introduce your child to a potential new sport over the summer. While Kelly Post Lacrosse, the country’s first youth lacrosse program that is now affiliated with the Towson Recreation Council, doesn’t offer a lacrosse camp, but it does offer — for $50 — boys’ summer-league pickup lacrosse. This includes skill training one night per week for six to eight weeks plus weekly games. Boys as young as 7 can attend and learn the basics of lacrosse.
Parents of kids who are reluctant to join team sports might look into individual sports instead, and camp opportunities abound there as well.
Karate works the mind with the body, says Jonathan Tissue, owner of Maryland Martial Arts in Timonium. Kids who take karate enjoy “improved concentration, endurance, balance and stress relief” and the social benefits of meeting new people, he says.
For some kids, karate “becomes a source of pride. It helps them find themselves,” Tissue adds. “Many kids are dealing with issues of identity and self-esteem. Kids who really apply themselves to their training get a sense of pride in their accomplishments. It becomes a big part of who they are.”
Earth Treks offers camps that mix climbing, traverse activities and group games for the younger set, ages 6 to 9. Older campers, ages 9 to 13, learn how to belay and get to climb outdoors at local crags. Earth Treks also has summer evening drop-off sessions called Friday Night Rox and guided open climbs every weekend.
For kids with disabilities
For kids whose disabilities may require accommodations, Bennett Blazers at Kennedy Krieger Institute introduces adaptive sports to children and teens with various degrees of physical abilities. Skill levels range from beginner to Paralympic.
Since 1989, the program has brought children who might have been sidelined onto the field of play, offering track, baseball, sled hockey, swimming, softball, tennis, archery and golf, among other sports.
Gerry and Gwena Herman run the multisport program, which includes summer camps, at Kennedy Krieger’s Greenspring campus. The program is five days a week and is the best fit for children ages 2 to 18 who have a diagnosed physical challenge and who are functioning at or near grade level.
For children ages 2 to 7, Bennett Blazers offers a half day that includes two activities plus swimming with a 1-to-2 staff-to-athlete ratio. Camps for older kids include four activities each day, two morning activities and two in the afternoon, as well as one session of swimming.
Gwena Herman enjoys watching team camaraderie develop at camp, she says, adding that “watching how older athletes naturally tutor and support the younger participants is always great to see and keeps the continuum going strong.”