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Kids Find Fun at Adventure and Athletic Camps

Feb 26, 2016 05:38PM ● Published by Jennifer Monahan

Camp Redwing

Gallery: Adventure and Athletic Camps [10 Images] Click any image to expand.

The original Parent Trap movie starring Hayley Mills premiered in 1961 and created iconic images of summer camps as havens for kids to learn canoeing, archery and swimming, make birdcages out of Popsicle sticks and generally engage in wholesome outdoor fun. Modern camp experiences offer these idyllic adventures as well as more specialized opportunities, with options to fit the unique needs of every camper.

Camp Redwing in Butler County, owned and operated by the Girl Scouts Western Pennsylvania, offers a variety of camp scenarios. Its resident camp is open to girls in kindergarten through twelfth grade, regardless of their affiliation with the Girl Scouts. Resident camp provides the traditional camp experience, complete with hiking trails, campfires, horseback riding, swimming, boating and archery.

Camps run for one-week overnight sessions, but two- and three-night stays are available for campers who need a more flexible schedule—or who might be nervous about being away from home for a full week. Girls can bring a parent or other adult with them for Me and My Gal or Me and My Guy camp programs. The camps begin in mid-June and run through mid-August.

Each session has a theme, according to Karla Schell, director of outdoor experience, and some of the most popular include Horsin’ Around, Thrill Seekers and Lazy River. Themed camp sessions are designed so that girls may progress from beginner through more advanced levels. For example, Lazy River is aimed at campers who are new to water sports and paddling a canoe, while more advanced girls might opt to take a three-day canoe trip down the Allegheny River in the River Runners session.

“Girls are craving outdoor adventures,” said Schell. “They love the trips, especially, and they form strong bonds during activities like the canoe and camping trip.”

While some campers might be hesitant to attend Girl Scout camp as independent campers rather than being part of a troop, Schell explained that about 50 percent of campers attend without a buddy and many do not have another connection to Girl Scouts beyond attending summer camps.

“We do a lot to make sure all of the girls are making friends with other kids,” said Schell. “One of the biggest benefits of camp is meeting people who are outside your regular friend group, and kids can get to know people who are different from them.” The model has proven successful, said Schell, adding that girls often stay in touch after camp, returning summer after summer. More information is available at www.gswpa.org.

For families seeking a summer experience focused on a particular sport, La Roche College provides athletic daycamps. Women’s Soccer Head Coach Miguel Lozano has been offering a community youth soccer camp for almost 20 years, and Women’s Volleyball Head Coach Nicole Bajuszik is heading into her tenth summer of volleyball camp. 

With weeklong sessions in June, July and August, Soccer Camp is open to boys and girls ages 4 through 16. Lozano designs the curriculum himself and is directly involved in the daily skill development sessions. His professional coaching staff is supplemented by college athletes, so participants receive not only expert advice and attention from licensed high school and college coaches but also encouragement from student-athletes who compete at the collegiate level.

“I am passionate about the game,” explained Lozano. “We try to make sure that when the kids leave at the end of each day, they know more about the game. We focus on soccer skills, but we try to make it fun at the same time.”

Bajuszik’s Volleyball Camp is aimed at girls in fourth grade through high school of all skill levels. June’s beginners’ camp helps fourth- through eighth-graders learn the foundations of volleyball while they practice basic techniques. In early July, Bajuszik and her staff offer a middle school camp which she says further cultivates the core foundations but focuses more on campers’ defensive and offensive skills. It also helps girls develop a more sophisticated understanding of the game. “We want the kids to feel more comfortable and confident on the court,” she explained.

For high school volleyball camp, the emphasis is on advancing skills and helping participants elevate the level of play. “The games are faster tempo to prepare high school players for the collegiate volleyball experience,” said Bajuszik.

The key to success in volleyball camp is that participants get a lot of individual attention. “Our La Roche volleyball team comes out in force,” said Bajuszik. Girls benefit from getting specialized instruction not only from the coaches, but also from college athletes who play the same position and can help with individual skill development. Details for both soccer and volleyball camps are available at www.larochesports.com.

Whether kids are interested in traditional sleep-away camp adventures or specialized sports camps, the Pittsburgh area offers a variety of choices for young people to enjoy.  

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