Cougar Camps Offer Something For Everyone

The Neuse Charter Boys’ Varsity Basketball Team held its first basketball camp for 2nd-6th graders in mid-January. Johnston County’s only brick-and-mortar charter school looks to include homeschool students at future camps.

By: Shannon Mann

Camps are the rage these days.

Have a kid interested in baseball? Send them to the NC State Baseball Camp or the free Chevrolet-sponsored camp. Have a kid interested in soccer? Challenger British Soccer Camp might be your thing. Got a kid excited about science? GSK’s Science in the Summer camp could be for you.

Let’s face it, there’s no lack of camps for any imaginable interest your child might have, but camp costs can add up quickly…and most, including many high school supported camps, are offered only during the summer.

Neuse Charter School has been dabbling in the camp experience for a few years now and as the student body grows so do the offerings and time frames.

In mid-January the school hosted its first basketball camp. Students in grades 3-6 were able to spend a Saturday morning with varsity basketball players and their coach working fundamental skills of the game.

NCS Boys’ Varsity Basketball Coach Dale Ham is a familiar face in the local area previously coaching at Smithfield Selma High School and for several recreational leagues, as well as officiating.

The coach explained that the camp not only benefits future players, but has an impact on his current team as well.

“One thing I coach every day in practice is to put yourself in a position to succeed,” said Ham.. “When student athletes are placed in a role of leadership they have the opportunity to gain experience engaging, communicating and becoming a role model for their younger peers”

CJ Rouse, the team’s captain, agreed with his coach. “We were able to teach the kids skills,” said the Neuse Charter senior, “and they have someone to look up to now.”

One younger peer had no basketball experience at all, but came to the camp as a way to learn.

Neuse elementary school student Gabbie Hawk said she really enjoyed her time with the team. “Camp was a lot of fun,” said the third grader. “I got a chance to be with friends and learn new things. I don’t play basketball now, but I’d love to play for NCS in the future.”

Hawk’s mom, Misty, felt this camp was a great way to not only gauge her daughter’s interest in the sport, but to help her build relationships and learn life skills in the process.

“With this type of exposure it helps build character and becomes a part of their life experience which helps to mold them into well rounded individuals,” said the older Hawk. “I would encourage any parent to offer their child the chance to participate in extracurricular activities that are being offered. The more exposure they get in different areas the better idea they have of their interests for future development in these areas.”

Students from Neuse Charter School participated in an acting breakout session during the school’s first drama camp last October. The charter school offers various half-day camps in sports and other educational, extracurricular activities.

Ham repeated the sentiment explaining that 8-12 year olds are sponges when it comes to athletics. “This is a time when kids decide if they really like sports or if they are being pushed into them,” said the dad of two highly-athletic daughters. “Being a small school, we need future student athletes to see the benefits of participating in extracurricular activities, whether its basketball, soccer, volleyball, baseball, softball, cheerleading, track or cross county.  Student athletes learn time management skills, determination and hard work.”

While the school has offered baseball, volleyball and soccer camps in the past, Neuse Charter is growing its extracurricular offerings by leaps and bounds. Last summer, a cheerleading camp was offered.

Rachel Priest, a rising second grader when the camp was offered, thought it was great. “The best part was the tumbling and cartwheeling.”

While some NCS sports camps are scheduled with short notice, coaches and administration are looking at developing more of a long-range calendar to help grow participation.

And some school camps have already seen record numbers of enrollment.

NCS offered its first drama camp in October and 95 students in grades 3-12 registered for the experience.

Six instructors worked with the youth on acting, dancing and singing.

“Camps like this enrich our students and give them an opportunity to try something new,” said Leah Williams, NCS music and band teacher and camp organizer. “After our drama camp, we had more than 70 students come back to audition for the musical.”

Other camps coming online soon include robotics, wrestling and golf, and even though other county high schools and private organizations may offer camps, Neuse Charter has priced itself well below the market.

Neuse Charter 3rd grader, Gabby Hawk, works on her shot while NCS Boys’ Varsity Basketball Coach Dale Ham instructs from the side. The school hosted its first basketball camp in mid-January.

“Local school-hosted camps can range anywhere from $70-$90 and outside organizations can range from $150-$300,” said Coach Gail Browning, a Neuse Charter gym teacher and coach. “We want to make this affordable for our families while at the same time benefiting our teams.

The charter school has been able to keep camp costs between $20-$35 for a half-day program, and that usually includes a shirt for the participant.

While Neuse Charter offers its camps to its student population first, it also welcomes others in the county to include home school students.

“We know many home school students are looking for ways to interact with their peers at affordable costs,” said Browning. “Neuse Charter is a very welcoming, family-oriented community and opening our camps to all students only makes our school stronger.”

All the coaches and teachers agree they can’t wait to host their next camp, but it’s the student leaders, athletes and campers that really convey the impact of how these camps benefit them. “It’s great to see the kids learn and have fun at the same time,” said Rouse. “These are great camps to be a part of.”