BRADFORD – The varsity girls basketball, softball and volleyball coaches at Bradford came together as they seek to improve participation in Lady Railroader athletics.
Varsity girls basketball coach Patrick McKee, varsity softball coach Shon Shaffer and varsity volleyball coach Maddie Armstrong hosted a joint camp this week for girls in the second through sixth grades. Fifteen girls attended the five-day camp where they learned about each sport daily for an hour.
“There’s a lot of kids anymore who think that they need to specialize at one sport to get good at that sport to get to the next level,” McKee said. “So we’re trying to show them that they can play all three.”
Getting students to participate in athletics has been a struggle throughout the Bradford school district, McKee said. The coaches are encouraging high school athletes to play multiple sports and hope the week-long camp will help prepare the current elementary school children to play multiple sports when they get into high school.
“Some of these sports they’d never been exposed to so we’re trying to hopefully increase numbers over the years,” McKee said.
The camp went really well, Armstrong said, even though she had some reservations before it began.
“I was a little nervous at first about having second and third graders,” the varsity volleyball coach said. “I wasn’t sure how strong they would be, but over the course of the week they got a lot better.”
The coaches focused on fundamentals during the week such as passing and serving in volleyball. They also tried to make the camp fun to keep girls engaged.
“We tried to keep it nice and light-hearted,” Armstrong said. “We played a lot of games in between because their arms would be a little bit sore.”
In basketball, McKee wanted the girls to learn basics such as passing, defense and footwork. The older girls also worked on some more advanced concepts.
“Second graders, this is probably the first time they’ve ever actually had any type of instruction,” McKee said.
The coaches also tried to teach the campers some things that they could continue working on at home.
“We tried to challenge them a little bit,” McKee said. “We did some ball-handling drills that were probably above them, but we wanted to also kind of give them some things that they could take home and challenge them over the summer or this fall until they get into a gym again.”
At the end of the week, the camp seemed to be really successful as girls started to find passion for sports they previously hadn’t been exposed to.
“There were a lot of girls that said, ‘I’ve never played volleyball before. I didn’t want to play it, but I actually kind of like it.’ So I think we gained a lot of girls’ interest,” Armstrong said.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.