Young athletes slide into softball camp

BY CLARK CAHILL | JUNE 12, 2009 7:26 AM

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Pearl Field was bustling with activity this week, but the Iowa softball team wasn’t making all the noise.

Nearly 50 girls, ages 8 to 18, participated in the Hawkeye Softball Day Camp, where they were given instruction from the Iowa softball coaching staff and a few Hawkeyes.

The camp — which took place from Tuesday to Thursday — was geared toward helping young athletes grow an appreciation and love for softball, said Iowa head coach Gayle Blevins.

“We’re a real good extension to the community, and it builds peoples’ interest in the softball program,” she said. “The kids come to camp and work with the athletes and coaches, so I think it’s a win-win for everyone.”

The first two days of the camp consisted of large-group instruction drills, helping participants focus on game fundamentals. The third and final day of camp was geared toward creating a team atmosphere, separating similar-age campers into smaller groups and placing them in game-like situations.

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Two Hawkeye softball players — infielder Chelsey Carmody and catcher Liz Watkins — helped with instruction at the camp, and both relished in the opportunity to aid younger players work on their skills.

“[The campers] bring so much energy and enthusiasm about each thing we do, so it’s fun,” Carmody said. “We are really trying to get them to grasp onto the concept of softball.”

Watkins, who was recruited to Iowa after being noticed by Blevins at the same camp two summers ago, said watching the girls’ progress is the best part.

“I love little kids and seeing them develop over the years because you see a lot of familiar faces at all of the camps,” Watkins said. “Just seeing how they’ve progressed since you’ve helped them last and what they’ve taken care of is great.”

Blevins said she sees improvements from many campers, especially the younger participants in the short summer camp, and there are many repeat campers who participate in the team’s fall and winter camps as well.

“From day one to day three you see a difference, especially with the younger kids who have never been taught how to throw or how to field,” she said. “You see that they start to get some of the things you are trying to teach them in a small amount of time.”

Camper Sam Valentine, 18, said working with the Iowa coaches and athletes was her favorite aspect of the camp.

“They really know their stuff, and I was able to take what they have taught me and apply it in real games,” she said.

The camp’s final activity gave participants the option to take part in a slip-and-slide — an option many took advantage of after a long day in the scorching sun.

“We want the girls to have fun, that is what the camp is for,” Watkins said. “These are young girls and we just want to have them love the game and leave here with a smile on their face.”

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