A girl who looks no more than 9 years old spins gracefully — 25 feet in the air — her small hands gripping strips of bright blue silk, hanging from...
Many parents know all too well the answer they’ll get if they ask their child what he or she did on any given day: “Nothing.”
But after a day at a Revolutionary Sports summer camp, that answer might get a bit more interesting.
It might go something like: “Soccer, basketball, cricket, Frisbee, lacrosse, handball AND tennis!”
At Revolutionary Sports camps, kids can learn to play up to 25 sports each week in a non-competitive environment designed for exploration.
This summer, Twin Cities kids as young as 4 can attend camp at three locations — Minneapolis (Northeast Ice Area), St. Paul (Vadnais Sports Center) and Eden Prairie (AirMaxx Trampoline Park and Champions Hall); and there’s a chance even more locations will be added come summer.
Revolutionary Sports founder John Richardson, who’s perhaps better known as “Coach John,” has more than 20 years of experience in sports instruction for kids.
His local business started to take shape in 2002 when the Minneapolis Park Board asked him to start preschool soccer classes to be taught at local parks.
His classes became incredibly popular. Parents spread the word. And Richardson found himself coaching multiple sports year-round at parks across the city.
Parents can now find a Revolutionary Sports class nearly every day of the year at more than 50 Minneapolis parks and schools as well as communities around the Twin Cities.
Kids as young as 2 can take part in the company’s year-round programming, which has grown to include more than 100 coaches leading instructional classes, day camps and fundamentals leagues in more than 25 different sports.
Summer day camps — as well as year-round day camps — are geared toward ages 4 to 14.
At camp, kids get to try their hand at a variety of tracks that create the ultimate sports sampler: Each track, eight currently, feature multiple sports. For example, the soccer track includes lacrosse, field hockey, Ultimate Frisbee and capture the flag, as well as soccer.
The baseball/softball track includes similar sports such as cricket, golf and kickball.
Tennis covers badminton, Frisbee golf and four square.
The five other tracks include football, basketball, volleyball, lacrosse/hockey and a “track and adventure course.”
At the Minneapolis location, Friday afternoons include a field trip to a waterpark. And all campers, regardless of location, get a chance to visit the AirMaxx Trampoline Park and the obstacle course training facility known as Conquer Ninja Warrior. Both are part of the Eden Prairie camp location, which also includes time at the Champions Hall sports complex at the same site.
Richardson said playing sports during camp isn’t just about keeping kids distracted or occupied. It’s also about teaching them correct techniques so they can avoid injuries and eventually improve.
“Sports are important — and doing them the right way is important,” he said.
That includes lesser-known sports.
“We do as many sports as we can,” Richardson said. “We’re not afraid of trying anything.”
During a camp last summer, 8-year-old Juniper Sulser said cricket was one of her favorite sports to learn.
Though cricket may be unfamiliar, the kids learn it in relation to other sports they do know.
“You have a paddle and a ball,” Juniper explained. “It’s like baseball, only it has two bases instead of four.”
With such a varied athletic curriculum, Revolutionary Sports employs a range of qualified coaches who emphasize safety as well as instruction.
“Our staff are very patient,” Richardson said, adding that the camp maintains a 10:1 camper-to-coach ratio.
One of the toughest things about sports camp for some kids is learning that mastering a skill can take time and work — and trial and error. Success isn’t — usually — instant.
If a child gets hurt, coaches react quickly. But rather than immediately giving kids long breaks or ice packs, coaches first encourage kids to take a deep breath and collect themselves.
Since many mishaps are amplified by embarrassment and fear of failure, it’s often more important to first remind the kids that not everyone succeeds right away.
“It’s OK to fail or not succeed,” Richardson said. “That’s part of challenging yourself.”
Sports are about so much more than physical skills, Richardson said.
“We try to teach kids how to handle competition when it arises,” he said. “It’s developing the kids socially as well as athletically.”
Long after their days as Rev Sports campers are over, kids can continue to participate in the program by volunteering.
Thirteen-year-old Maxim Buehler is a veteran camper.
This summer, he’ll participate as a junior counselor.
Buehler said he enjoys demonstrating responsibility in front of the kids.
“When kids disagree, I help them get along,” he said. “That makes me feel good.”
Buehler said his favorite sport at camp is Ultimate Frisbee “because there’s a lot of teamwork.”
With so much variety — typically a half-dozen sports each day — kids rarely get bored.
One camper, attending a session last summer, tried to explain the math: “It’s six sports each day — 6 plus 6, or 5 times … well, a lot of sports!”
Lauren Cutshall is a Minneapolis-based freelance writer and a student at the University of Minnesota.
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