GREENVILLE – Th Greenville Youth Track Camp has grown from nearly being disbanded to hosting more than 100 kids every summer, according to GHS track coach Bill Plessinger.
The camp was only drawing 20-30 kids 20 years ago when Plessinger was a junior high track coach. It was about to be disbanded but after he became the head varsity boys track coach, instead of letting it go away, he offered to take it over as long as he could do it his way. He made a few changes over the years and at last week’s camp there were 114 kids at the Jennings Center Track & Field Complex.
“This has just kind of morphed over the years,” Plessinger said. “When we only had 40 kids we did it all in a day. Today, you saw we barely got done all the running events with no time to spare. We did the field events yesterday, although we did finish the high jump today because it is the most time consuming event.
“It’s funny how the numbers have gone over the years too,” he continued. “As the numbers of this camp have increased the numbers on my track team have increased. We had over 100 on our high school track team this year boys and girls. It’s all a win-win. It’s great for the kids and they talk about it all year.”
Plessinger said the camp is all about teaching the kids something, making it fun and getting them to be competitive.
“We do every event,” Plessinger said. “Hurdles, shot, discus, high jump, long jump. We teach them the difference between sprint a distance. We’re not allowed to do pole vault and we didn’t have time to do relays. Riley (Hunt) was working here the first two days of camp and we were going to have her do a demonstration on the pole vault, but with the time constraints with this many kids we just could’t fit it in.”
The camp is also a great recruiting tool, Plessinger said.
“Every helper that I had out here other than my coaching staff – the high school kids and kids who have graduated – have attended this camp,” Plessinger said. “We start looking at these kids and their form and they might be only going over a two foot cone but there is that form. Some kids are born with it.
“Track is such a sport that unless it is the Olympics you don’t see it,” he continued. “It’s very unassuming and not popular sport really so for a lot of these kids it is the first time they’ve ever seen or heard of it. So when you see this kid that has talent you’re like you’re going to be good. I don’t want to sound like we do it just to recruit. There are a lot of other things we do than just run, but we are able to single out some talent and say you know what girl you have talent. Not everyone wants to do track it’s not the most glamorous sport, but I love it. The kids that do run for us have a great time. It’s a very fraternal sport and whatever we can do to help our program.”
Plessinger was worried about the potential turnout this year. The camp will not held last year due to the construction of the Jennings Center Track & Field Complex.
“We missed last year because we didn’t have a facility with this place under construction,” Plessinger said. “I was a little concerned about the turnout this year because like anything else when you take a year off its like out of sight out of mind for kids. The last year we did it we had about 108 kids I think. I left for Florida two weeks ago and we had 60 signed up. I got back and we had 100. We ended up with 114 signed up.
“A lot of amazing things happen out here,” he continued. “Things you wouldn’t think a six-year-old kid could do that and yet they do it. It is very rewarding for me and it is really rewarding when I see them 6-7 years from now when that fourth-grade girl who blew us away at track camp is now blowing away people at the high school level and it happens every year. A lot of these kids don’t know they have the talent until somebody tells them. It is a good recruiting tool for us. We’re in this for the kids and whatever we can do to help build our program.”
Not only does Plessinger have many of his high school kids out working the camp, but he has some kids who are home from college that come out as well.
“I like having kids out here that have had success in high school,” Plessinger said. “I think that is good for these younger kids to see because now they can say there is Camille Watren from Versailles who placed in five events at state in four years of high school and who got beat in the state basketball finals three years in a row but she still got there.
“That’s what it is all about I think in high school sports,” he continued. “You take that same kid in the fifth grade and start a relationship with them and then when you get them in high school you build on that relationship. My whole staff tries to do that with their kids. I love it when kids come back to Greenville and stop by my house. It makes you feel good and that’s why I do this. I do it for the kids. They are awesome and we have such a great group of kids here at Greenville in all sports. We develop lifelong relationships with many of them.”