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Hundreds flock to national sports camp

It's early morning in the summer, there's no school or little league games, and the pool hasn't opened. What to do, what to do.

How about going to sports camp?

Okay, but how much does it cost and how about travel and lodging?

Not to worry. The camp is priced for everyone's budget -- free -- and it's right on the grounds at Ironton High School and Ohio University Southern Campus.

The National Youth Sports Camp is in its second year. The camp is sponsored by the NCAA in partnership with the United States government. Ron Reed, head basketball coach at OUSC, is the director.

"Obviously, this is to give kids something to do in the summer time," Reed said. "We teach sports skills at basketball, tennis, soccer, swimming, and volleyball."

But there is more.

Rhonda Hall, the Lawrence County Teacher of the Year, conducts classes on the effects of drugs and alcohol. She also teaches activities in lab situations and explains theories regarding math and science.

"They're hands-on projects," Reed said. "And she talks about setting goals and looks at different careers from education to doctors and lawyers."

The main objective of the camp instructors is to teach fundamental skills.

"We wanted the children at the end of the five weeks to have the equivalent of going to an Ohio State camp or some place like that. For instance, out soccer instructor is the coach at Marshall (Cory Hill)," said Reed.

Basketball utilized 3-on-3 play for a week and a half. Now the youths play 5-on-5.

"You can see it resembles a basketball game," said Reed.

The camp averaged 178 per day last year for youths ages 10-16. This year a total of 214 have benefited from the camp that also serves free breakfast and lunch, as prepared by the Dawson-Bryant food services.

The fifth and final week features competitions between all the participants.

"We divide the kids into five tribes like the TV show "Survivor." There are different swimming contests, 3-on-3 basketball games, ball-handling and shooting contests," said Reed. "The last day is a giant relay when all the people in all the groups participate in some way. It's an exciting conclusion to the camp."

The program's grant is renewable each year. The Ironton grant had no trouble getting a second year and Reed doesn't foresee a problem in the future.

"We have a national evaluation. The woman who evaluates areas like Toledo and Columbus evaluates us. Last year we were the only ones who got bonus points for coaching and teaching. We didn't have anyone standing," said Reed.

While Reed oversees the entire camp, he said it is only possible due to the staff. Reed said there are five professionals, 14 counselors, and 14 volunteers. He said all the workers do a great job, such as Ruthie Lynd.

"She knocked the socks off the evaluator. She's full of energy. She doe the drug, alcohol and tobacco aspects," said Reed.

The five sports professionals are:Holly Hamilton (basketball), Carol Thompson (tennis & volleyball), Cory Hill (soccer), Cork Habre (swimming) from Ashland High School, Micah Bentley (lifeguard).

Counselors: Lindsey Anderson, Sarah Bruce, Andrew Cronacher, Natalie Dial, Davonna Hobbs, Megan Sherman, Stacy Mefford, John Darnell, Brittni Davis, Laura Bruce, Amanda Chapman, Dustin Stephenson, Brian Sturgill, and Ryan Young.

"We're fortunate Gear Up has provide us with three workers and Russell with five workers.

Volunteers; Kyle Thompson, Jonathan Williams, Jackie Childers, Brittani Brewer, Caleb McKenzie, Brian Holmes, Ryan Brislin, Bonita Chaffin, Shelli Murphy, Aaron Fain, Beth Pollack, Aaron Pollack, Chelsey Stephenson, Taylor Waldo.

The professionals are college graduates who coach on the high school or college level while the counselors are comprised of college-age students. Jim Walker/The Ironton Tribune