GREENVILLE — After completing the 14th year of his youth camp Friday, Greenville varsity track and field coach Bill Plessinger said he’s seen the camp pay dividends for the youth athletes and his high school program.
For five days last week kids ranging from kindergarten through junior high learned about track and field from Green Wave high school coaches and athletes and competed in events such as the 50 meters, 100 meters, 400 meters, 800 meters, hurdles, long jump, high jump, shot put and discuss. It’s a tradition many of the high school helpers have participated in since they were in kindergarten themselves and just learning the nuances of the sport.
“This is starting to really help our high school program because a lot of these kids who are coming through camp are now on my high school team,” Plessinger said. “And you can almost see the kids who have been here every year, watch them compete, watch them hurdle, and they’ve got it down because they’ve been here so many years. It took awhile, but it’s really starting to help our overall program, and I think that’s one of the reasons our high school program is getting better.”
The popularity of the camp has boomed in recent years with a record number of campers participating this year. The 2014 camp drew more than 80 campers, which is twice as many as just four years ago.
Plessinger credits the growing popularity of the camp to kids enjoying their week at Harmon Field and bringing friends with them in subsequent years.
“I don’t know what the magic is, but it’s a great thing,” he said. “I guess the word is finally spreading.”
In order to control the growing number of young athletes, Plessinger had help from a couple assistant coaches from the high school program plus about eight of his high school athletes.
“I couldn’t do it without their help … there’s no way,” he said. “At one point I ran this with three people; that just tells you how we’ve gotten big. I couldn’t imagine having three people now. It would be crazy.”
With the growing number of participants, the camp has had to expand as well. The camp ends every year with a meet in which the kids compete in the events they learned about throughout the week. The meet used to conclude in one day with time to spare but now encompasses three days with Plessinger and his helpers scurrying to allow everyone to compete.
“Everybody seems to be really happy,” Plessinger said. “Their kids have a good time. We try to make it fun. We try to make it learning. And like I said, it’s finally starting to pay off at the next level so I’m pretty excited.”
In addition to reaping the benefits at the high school level, the Green Wave track program also is seeing some impressive results among its young competitors.
“Some of these things what these elementary kids are doing are what junior high and high school kids are doing,” Plessinger said.
Plessinger expects the camp to continue to grow with parents asking if their children as young as 3 years old can attend, which the Green Wave coach is embracing.
“You get them running and doing stuff at age 2 and 3, they’ll get pretty good at it by the time they’re in high school,” he said.
The camp will continue next year as it has the past 14, incorporating games and a trip to the city pool to make track and field fun for kids and helping to build the Green Wave high school program.
“I want them to have fun, and I want them to understand that track can be a fun sport, and it’s a sport that they can succeed at,” Plessinger said. “I tell my high school kids, there’s 17 events in high school track; I can find something you’d be good at.”