BYU sports camps help kids get ‘taste’ of college experience


At the time of the year when many students flee the BYU campus for Spring and Summer semesters, many young children come to BYU with one thing in mind – they want to be “taught how to Jimmer.”

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Kelly Poppinga coaches youth while they participate in a BYU sponsored football camp.
BYU has a long history of hosting sports camps and offers more than 65 different camps and clinics, the most of any other school in the country. 

The sports camps offered at BYU cover the full spectrum in collegiate sports, ranging from the most popular American sports, such as football and basketball, to rugby and hockey.

“Sports camps give kids a taste of what is expected at a collegiate level and also give kids a chance to shine on a different stage than their hometown or school,” said basketball camp counselor and team manager Ryan Peterson. “On top of that, the kids get individual attention that is tailored to their goals as players.”

BYU’s sports camps are run by nationally recognized coaches and top-ranked athletes of BYU.

“I came to the lacrosse camp in 2002 as a camper,” said BYU lacrosse alumnus and camp counselor Justin Hier. “I looked up to the coaches who were current players and wanted to do whatever they said so I could impress them.”

With the growing popularity and national recognition of BYU sports, the attendance at the camps is at an all-time high.

Children hope to be like the role models they see on TV and shows, such as ESPN. They also want to have a once in a lifetime opportunity to learn from them athletically and from their life lessons.

In a recent father and son’s basketball camp, former BYU basketball player Jimmer Fredette attended with his dad, Al Fredette.

“Jimmer wants to be a great basketball player, but basketball is not everything to him,” said Brian Santiago, BYU senior associate athletics director, in a recent interview. “Being a good person is more important than being a great basketball player. That is impressive. That is what we are trying to instill in these young men. We want the kids who come on campus to have those kinds of role models, players in our program who are great young men, the full package … great people who set an example.”

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Youth participate in a BYU sponsored football camp.
BYU as a school, along with athletes like Fredette, help the camps sell out every year and bring together young athletes from all over the country and sometimes even the world. 

In a study on the importance of summer camps for the complete development of a child it stated that “summer camps offer great opportunities to meet and befriend kids and teens from other schools, cities, states and countries. Kids learn about the existence of bigger and diverse societies and their exciting customs and interesting people.”

The camps offer more than practicing and playing with BYU athletes and coaches. They are also a great way for the campers to interact and build relationships with athletes their age.

“The camp was a ton of fun,” Hier said. “You get to be around kids from other states and schools and walks of life. The activities at night time were an awesome way to get your mind off the sport and relax.”

In addition to the social and athletic side, the camps offer a spiritually uplifting experience unlike any other university-sponsored sports camp.

Sports camps are not only fun and beneficial to the campers, but also benefit the coaches and athletes that help with the camps.

“I think the camp helped the coaches get to know me and I got to know the coaches,” Hier said.

The BYU men’s rugby program recently had its first summer camp and hopes to build the program and scope young players for the future through camps.

“It’s a good way to get rugby players excited about the rugby program,” said Ryan Roundy, senior on the BYU men’s rugby team and camp coach. “It’s an efficient way and a great tool to start recruiting kids from a younger age to eventually come to BYU and play.”

The camp counselors, most of whom are college athletes, see most of the benefits of the camps in their own game.

“Sometimes the campers help you to remember to have fun while playing,” Hier said. “The higher the level of play, the higher the stress. And the campers help you remember how fun the game is.”

The camps also give a sense of fulfillment to the counselors.

“Coaching the kids really gives you a better perspective as a player,” Peterson said. “I think the gratification of helping young kids achieve their goals is the main benefit of the camps for the counselors.”

BYU continues to see success in summer camps and hopes to build the programs each year and produce hopefuls for BYU’s future teams. Maybe this summer will bring the next Jimmer Fredette to campus.



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