HOLT, Mich. - The community surrounding Holt High School has always always carried family-like atmosphere. That was recently made apparent, when it came together to raise money for a wrestling coach whose Type 2 diabetes was worsening.
The special community connection starts at an early age, as seen in the high school’s varsity athletes helping stage popular youth sports camps.
The idea behind the camps is twofold: first, the varsity athletes can teach the elementary, middle and junior high school kids the fundamentals of sport. For example, the softball camp teaches kids how to properly throw a ball, so that they maintain good habits and reduce the risk of injury.
Renee Sadler, Holt’s athletic director, was quick to point out how important these camps are for the varsity athletes. When varsity players run drills, they need to do them correctly so they can properly teach the kids.
“If they’re trying to break it down and teach it to a younger kid, then they have to understand how to do it themselves,” she said.
The second big idea is for the athletes to give kids a sense of belonging. Something, according to Sadler, that will benefit the kids as they work their way through school.
“We want kids to learn how to be a part of something,” Sadler said. “When they learn how to be a part of something, they learn how to manage their time, they’re better academically, studies have shown. We want to keep kids involved all the way up until their senior year.”
Suzanne Wardell, athletic director at the Holt’s junior high, agreed with Sadler, seeing how the junior high kids look forward to working with the varsity athletes.
“Our junior high athletes really enjoy attending camp with the high school athletes, because they enjoy the opportunity to meet and get to know the student athletes that they look up to,” Wardell said, via e-mail. “Our high school athletes take time to show them the skills that they to work on, and remind them that they were once in their shoes. And with hard work, they can also play the sports that they want to in high school.”
The impact of the community connection can be seen in the Holt high football program. On Wednesday, the high school and junior high do not start class until 10:30 a.m, but the elementary and middle school kids start two hours earlier at 8:30. While some high school kids might catch up on sleep, the varsity players have their own ideas on how to use that time.
A group of 10-12 players travel across town to Dimondale Elementary, helping kids with math problems, among other things. Sadler believes that this practice transcends sports and can help kids make a career out of something other than being an athlete. She also applauded the athletes for taking the time to do something a lot of other kids may not think of.
“I really am proud of our kids for doing that because it does require a little bit of extra work,” she said.
Sadler has some goals she hopes to see continue to grow as the camps continue, She wants to help the young athletes realize the platform they have, so they’re prepared when they get to the high school level. The second, and maybe the most important, is to let the kids have fun.
“We’re not trying to create college players here,” Sadler said. “We’re trying to create an environment to let kids be a part of something.”