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Thursday, 24 April 2014 08:38

Medicine Hat College summer program well-planned, beneficial for youngsters

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Summer is approaching and every parent's nightmare is watching their children become stationary lumps on the couch — either watching Netflix, playing with some sort of gaming system or fiddling with a smartphone.


Medicine Hat College Recreation and Fitness Programmer Sonya Brown is concerned about today's youth.
“I’m noticing that the literacy of (active) play is declining with kids. Playgrounds are empty,” says Brown who has developed a big passion to teach children.  “Kids don’t how to throw or kick a ball properly for example. They should be learning that when they’re 3 or 4 or 5. It’s hard on them later on in life because they lose confidence in themselves. It’s really fundamental stuff. I think parents need to take some responsibility – it doesn’t cost them to let kids go outside. I want to bring ‘play’ back. It’s healthy and that what we’re trying to teach: physical literacy.”
Southwest Saskatchewan and southeast Alberta may recognize Brown. A native of Kindersley, Brown has coached both track and field in Medicine Hat and the Richmound Figure Skating Club. She graduated from the University of Regina in 2009 with a bachelor's degree in kinesiology and health studies and has been at the Medicine Hat College since 2010.
Brown says it's important children of all ages understand the "literacy" of movement. She says physical literacy is just like reading literacy: there has to be rules and skills learned to do both properly.
From April 21-25, there was an Easter Break Physical Literacy and You (PLAY) program hosted by the college and taught by Brown and a few of college students who are either in an education-related field or are members of one of the elite Rattler’ teams.
According to the description, the Easter program provided two options PLAY Fun for ages 5-7 and PLAY Sport for ages 8-10. PLAY Fun concentrates on developing agility, balance, coordination and speed – the ABCs by presenting it in a creative way through arts, crafts as well as fun indoor and outdoor activities. PLAY Sport places an emphasis on the development of sport-specific skills through athletic games including basketball, volleyball, lacrosse, soccer, swimming, etc.
It’s part of a program she has been working on for a while. She’s proud it.
"We're trying to promote the development of movement skills, " adds Brown who says if they understand how to properly participate in recreational and sports-related activities, there will be more zest and desire to keep active at a young age and into adult hood. "We're teaching them skills and giving them the environment to have fun but with an educational purpose. Basically we're teaching kids how to play, creating fun movements, but giving them the skills in order to put them into 'game' situations.
“There’s no kid who leaves here who didn’t have a lot of fun; they always have a good experience.”
These game situations will help to build skills in a team environment which in turn helps build leadership skills, maturity and confidence for not only sports, but everyday life as well:better than sitting with a Play Station.
While on the surface, the program may sound clinical, nothing can be further from the truth.
The key for Brown and the Sport and Wellness Center is to make it an enjoyable experience without the youngster realizing they're learning skills. The message seems to be getting through as Brown acknowledges this year's Easter Camp numbers were solid.
Brown has experience with athletic development and what the College describes in her bio as “exercise science.”
What she did at the Easter Camp and what some of the different summer camps entails the young participants taking part in different games which will involve tasks that the instructors can monitor. These skill levels are monitored and evaluated from the start of the camp to the conclusion.
“Each station is an assessment of skills like kicking or striking,” explains Brown. “ Rotate around and those skills, see what those skills are and go from there...the kids really don’t know they’re being monitored. We keep it fun.”
For example, participants will take part in a enjoyable race and from there, the coaches will be able to evaluate whether for example, children swing their arms or bend their knees properly while running. With a variety of tests, each child is monitored, evaluated  and then given a report card on what the skill levels are. Parents know ahead of time what activity is coming. Brown says the college’s program has evolved. 
“Each year, we’ve changed something (with the camps) — it used to be a bunch of games, sometimes without a purpose,” acknowledges Brown who says the camp will take place outside on the college turf, inside in the gym and there’s a day of swimming as well.
Brown says this camp is different from other camps and is more task-oriented with far less free time.
She says there is a plan: minute-by-minute and it keeps both the instructors and the camp-goers on track. It’s structured but not rigidly so as there is still is a little free time and exploration of stations allowed.
The Summer Camps have other programs besides the PLAY Fun and PLAY Sport. There is also PLAY Outdoors (ages 9-14); PLAY Yoga (ages 4-12); PLAY Elite Athlete (ages 12-16), FAME (a girls’-only camp), and PLAY Abilities (for Grades 1-6).
“Physical activity is crucial. The physical development has to work (to coincide)with the mental development of a young person. It’s just as important, they need each other. Being physically active is helping them grow as people...be fit for life.”
The College is currently accepting registration for the summer camp programs in July and August.
Register now for the Sport & Wellness PLAY programs, Rattlers sport camps, and before and after-care. Registration will is open can be done by calling 403-529-3844.
For more see the Sport and Wellness Summer Camps website at www.mhc.ab.ca/SportWellness/ SportCamps.aspx ; like them on Facebook or follow them on Twitter at @SWSummerCamps.

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Ryan Dahlman

Managing Editor