By Leila Dycus staff writer
Every little kid has someone that they look up to, and, for the youth softball and baseball players, that’s often their favorite high school players. This week, Morgan County youth are getting a chance to be coached by their idols at camps. “I like to see the little girls come out and to see how the high school girls work with the players,” said high school softball coach Doug Connelly. “We try to make sure the high school ladies understand that these girls look up to them and they want to be like them one day.” This week, youths ages 5-14 are joining high school students and other older players to learn the game of softball. Camp began on Monday and is spilt into two different age groups.
The five to 10 year olds began early this week and will attend camp until Wednesday. On Wednesday, the 11 to 14 year olds will join the younger girls and have camp for the rest of the week. On the first day of camp, 25 little girls made their way to the field. “We’ll just be working on fundamentals- throwing, catching, hitting, fielding, but the reason we do fundamentals is to give them a good foundation,” said Connelly. For the girls, the camp is broken down into stations. On Monday, the players rotated through two hitting stations, a fielding station and a defense station. After completing the stations, the girls play fun games to reinforce what they have learned. After one day of camp, Coach Connelly said that he feels like it was one of the best days they have ever had. The younger girls were engaged in the game and learned a lot of basic fundamentals.
The youth girls have an opportunity to work with rising tenth, eleventh and twelfth graders. This interaction is what Coach Connelly appreciates the most about youth camp week. The younger youths look up to the high school players and the camp gives them a time to play with their heroes. Camp also gives the high school softball coaches the chance to get to know the younger players. When the older girls come in, 11 to 14 year olds, MCHS alumni softball players will join the current high schoolers in leading the camp. This gives the older girls a chance to see what playing in college is like. “We hope we can teach them a little something about softball and that they have a good time,” said Connelly. At the end of the camp week, the players get to participate in practice games.
Coach Connelly also said that, on the last day, youth girls’ work on sliding where they bring in a slip and slide for the kids to practice on. The players leave the week having gained playing time and established fundamentals. Meanwhile, 72 boys ranging in ages from four to 12 are sprawling out over three baseball fields. The young boys are spending this week working on fundamentals of baseball. “It’s just fast paced, I do a lot of rotations with age groups,” said baseball coach Dusty Hawkins.
“We do infield, outfield, hitting and then I also incorporate dodgeball because you know kids love dodgeball.” Dodgeball is used for the boys to learn valuable baseball skills such as hitting and catching. It’s also a chance for the kids to have fun. This year is the first year Coach Hawkins has opened camp up to the peewee-aged boys. After the first day of camp was complete Coach Hawkins realized that he needed to rework his game plan for the youngest boys to better fit there needs. “Priority one is fun, and that’s my coaching philosophy,” said Hawkins. “If they have fun everything comes along great. The kids have fun, the coaches have fun everything else goes along smoothly.” Just like the girls, current and former baseball players have joined Coach Hawkins in teaching the boys. This has given them the opportunity to play with some of the people they look up to the most. It has also given Coach Hawkins the ability to get to know some of the younger players, which he has enjoyed.