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Getting a smart head start

Northwest Guardian

Published: 05:29PM July 31st, 2014

Every great professional sports athlete had to start somewhere before they were able to become legends in their respective fields. For children at Joint Base Lewis-McChord, they can begin at the age of 3.

The Start Smart Sports Camp is an annual three-day introductory course to sports held by JBLM Child, Youth and School Services’ sports department for children ages 3-5. This year it was held July 22-24 at the CYSS gymnasium on Lewis Main.

The idea behind Start Smart is to provide a program to introduce young athletes to the basic skills and fundamentals of sports like soccer, baseball and basketball. According to instructor Jamaal James, many of the kids in the program are already signed up for fall sports programs at CYSS.

“I’m going to see a majority of them on my team, or on another coach’s team, and they’ll recognize me as the ‘Start Smart teacher,’” James said, who has taught the camp the past four years.

During the camp, children practice drills that act as samples of different sports; that way they can see what they like and what they don’t like while having fun with others in their age group.

Christine McClendon signed up her son Patrick, 4, for soccer last year, but she said he was intimidated by the large group of youths running around him. So she enjoys bringing Patrick to a camp where he can be introduced to other types of sports.

“You can find out which activities they like and you can sign them up in the fall,” McClendon said. “We’re thinking he likes baseball because he likes throwing and catching.”

James added that the camp is also designed to allow children the freedom to choose for themselves what they want to pursue. He said the more a child is interested in a sport, the more likely they are to pay attention and listen to what the coach is telling them.

At the same time, James likes to have parents involved in some of the drills with their child to assist in the hands-on learning of each sport. For example, children lined up and practiced their passing skills to their respective adult.

“That way they can get used to me and learn a sport with their parents,” James said. “What better mentor than a parent.”

In addition to being introduced to the sports programs offered by CYSS, parents like the fact that the camp helps the kids let off steam.

Each class lasts an hour and a half, allowing the kids to work off their energy.

“(Luke) went to bed at 7 o’clock last night, which is an hour before (normal bedtime),” said Anthony Coulter.