Camps keep kids moving and the benefits coming

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"Game On! campers play a fun game that focuses on skill development and teamwork." Photo by Game On! Sports Camps 4 Girls

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Camps that focus on physical activities — such as sports or the performing arts — aren’t just centered on skills and drills. These camps offer not only fun and fitness but also emotional and developmental benefits as well.

By name alone, Legacy Sports Camps in Oak Park might sound traditional, but its summer multi-sports camps are anything but.

“We try to avoid a standard routine of just repeating the same activities over and over,” said Dan Kane, Legacy Sports Camp director. “Custom games and sports build anticipation for campers each day they arrive at Legacy since it never feels ‘canned.’”

Though the activities may vary, one lesson is a common thread at the camp.

“We always have a word of the day that we emphasize throughout each session, as well. Campers and coaches share short stories about an experience they have had with teamwork or responsibility. We emphasize and value this character-building dimension of our program as it helps the campers relate and connect to our staff while fostering mentor relationships from positive role models,” Kane said.

On the performing arts side of physical camps, the Northbrook Park District offers theatre workshops for children. These workshops focus on the elements of creating a musical, and everyone who registers receives a part in the play.

“Much of the physical activity [in these workshops] involves dance, which offers exercise and can reduce stress, improve relaxation, strengthen muscles, improve posture and help control weight,” said Erin McDonald, assistant manager of performing arts at Northbrook Park District. “Dance also provides an activity for children who do not consider themselves athletic or might be hesitant to try something new.”

The performing arts — acting, singing and dancing — offer emotional and developmental benefits by boosting confidence, creativity, communication and self-discipline. Interactions during rehearsals for the plays can double as rehearsals for life experiences.

“Developmentally speaking, we have seen children in our program overcome extreme shyness and blossom with confidence as they took their turn in the spotlight. Students who are quiet in school or uneasy socially can step into a loud character and be someone completely different onstage,” McDonald said.

Game On! Sports Camps 4 Girls in Lake Forest and Chicago offers a mix of traditional and non-traditional sports as well as creative activities. This program emphasizes physical development from two important perspectives: self-recognition of improvements and boosted self-image, said Barb Lazarus, Game On! Sports Camp 4 Girls owner. “Every camper, whether a beginner/recreational or elite athlete, will feel improvement when it comes to the core skills behind all the different sports we play, ” she said.

Campers therefore develop the confidence to play, and learn that there is pride in “playing like a girl.”

All campers engage in age-appropriate and fun fitness challenges or even team-based art projects that teach and reinforce the importance and reward of having a “solid” body.

“No matter the size or shape, we educate campers on how a healthy lifestyle, including being active and attention to nutrition, leads to feeling good about themselves,” Lazarus said. “The result is improved self-esteem that translates into better performance on the fields and in every day life.”

For more information on the camps in this article:

Legacy Sports Camp — legacysportscamp.com

Northbrook Park District — nbparks.org

Game On! Sports Camp 4 Girls — gameonsportscamp.com