MSU home to sport camps
Head coaches and athletes help campers improve their skills
From left, Lake Orion, Mich., resident James Ohlsson, 11, Williamston, Mich., resident Ross Davis, 11, and Howell, Mich., resident Noah Wolfram, 12, talk before hitting the ice at the Elite Hockey I Camp at Munn Ice Arena on Wednesday, June 20, 2012. The young hockey players were coached by players and coaches from the MSU hockey team. Samantha Radecki/The State News
The summer season signals the end to varsity athletics at MSU. But even though the fields are vacant, the bleachers are empty and the buzz of football season remains several weeks away, it doesn’t stop thousands of young athletes from making the trip to East Lansing.
In a collaborative effort between the MSU athletics department and residential hospitality services, MSU’s campus is the host to camps related to 17 sports ranging from basketball to wrestling during the summer months. Starting in late June and continuing through early August, “approximately 8,000 campers” ranging from ages 6 to 18 venture to the area for top-flight instruction from coaches and student-athletes in their area of expertise, former Associate Athletics Director Karen Langeland said.
Langeland, who recently retired from her position overseeing MSU’s summer camps at the end of June, spent 12 years as an administrator of the camps after 24 years of directing them as the MSU women’s basketball coach. After having both a direct and indirect role in presiding over the sports camps for more than three decades, Langeland said MSU Sports Camps expose families to the university and the amenities it offers for young athletes.
“There’s probably the biggest benefit to the university because it exposes these young campers with Michigan State, and they live right on campus, they eat right on campus,” Langeland said.
“They’re using all of our athletics facilities. In some cases, they’re meeting some of our student-athletes who are working the camps and certainly meeting the head coaches and assistant coaches who are directing the camp.”
Howell, Mich., resident Karsyn Textor, 17, stretches at IM Sports-West on June 21, 2012. Textor was participating in an MSU diving camp. Julia Nagy/The State News
Swimmers simulate a meet at a MSU swimming camp at IM Sports-West on June 21, 2012. Students from around the country came to the swim camp to boost their skills. Julia Nagy/The State News
Fourteen-year-old Ashanti Thomas, from Lexington, Ky., does a ball handling drill while attending the Women's Basketball Elite - One Day Camp, hosted by MSU, on Thursday, June 21, 2012, at Breslin Center. MSU offers a variety of sports camps to kids of all ages throughout the summer. Samantha Radecki/The State News
Making your mark
With more than 20 years of experience as an assistant coach with the MSU hockey program, the benefits and challenges of MSU Sports Camps are obvious to Tom Newton.
Newton, who is the longest-tenured assistant at one school in college hockey, said each of MSU’s five separate hockey camps that run throughout the summer give campers a look inside the hockey program with programs designed for each age group.
The Elite Hockey Camp gives campers on-ice instruction in specific areas such as stick handling, passing and receiving and shooting, among other things. In addition, the campers are treated to an off-ice regimen that includes game preparation, the importance of nutrition and hydration along with time to work on conditioning and flexibility.
But that’s not to say there isn’t time for fun, Newton said.
“Once you get that radar gun and they can get a number as to how hard they shoot the puck, they all love that,” he said. “They all want to keep on doing it. If anything, it kind of tests them.”
One aspect of the camp that benefits Newton and other coaches within the department is the ability to evaluate talent of the campers for the sake of recruiting. Although the NCAA, under rule 184.108.40.206, prohibits “staff members employed at any camp or clinic from recruiting any prospective student-athlete during the time period that the camp or clinic is conducted,” Newton said evaluating talent is just part of keeping one’s eyes open.
“We don’t set it up to try to get our best prospects in here like I know some of the sports do,” he said. “That’s not our purpose, but to say that we’re not looking, that would be totally false. ”
Other sports, such as baseball, use the camps to get an up close and personal look at the athletes, MSU baseball head coach Jake Boss Jr. said. Despite utilizing other avenues to locate prospects.
“We have our own specific baseball camp that we design, and we tailor it to a couple different age groups,” Boss said. “With the older guys, we do use it as a recruiting opportunity to bring some kids in there whom we’re looking at, as far as recruiting is concerned, and try to get a better look at those guys while being able to get to know them a little better too in a baseball-type setting.”
Enjoying the experience
Walking along the fence next to Munn field in the shadow of Spartan Stadium with a soccer ball in hand, Plymouth, Mich., resident Karson Gregory, 14, couldn’t be more excited about the opportunity to attend camp at MSU.
Gregory, who has played soccer for “seven or eight years” heard about the camps from a brochure and signed up to be a part of the soccer camp. The camp, which features combined instruction from men’s soccer head coach Damon Rensing and women’s head coach Tom Saxton, along with a host of current and former student-athletes, breaks the students up based on age and position and gives them the opportunity to work on different skills.
For Gregory — who said his favorite MSU athletes are former football players Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham — the connection with MSU and its coaches makes the camp interesting to him.
“It feels sweet; it feels awesome,” Gregory said. “I love Michigan State. I’ve always wanted to come here, and it’s a good opportunity to work on my goalie skills and my foot skills out of the net.”
Annie Steinlage, a junior defender for the MSU women’s soccer team and an instructor at the soccer camp, said the chance to work with campers gives her a different perspective. Even after working other camps elsewhere in the past, Steinlage said being an instructor at MSU Sports Camp means working with young soccer players while balancing her own personal training for the upcoming season.
But for Steinlage working with kids is about more than just soccer; it’s about setting an example like others once did for her.
“It is a lot different, especially after growing up and going to camps like this my whole life,” Steinlage said. “It kind of makes you realize that you have a lot of responsibility to show these campers how to play and to be their role model. It’s fun to be on this side of things.”