COLUMBIA - "Play 60" is a national nutrition and exercise program to encourage kids to lead healthier lives. This summer, the camp has come to Columbia.
Columbia's Play 60 camp is hosted at Strength & Conditioning Factory on the north side of town. Each day, campers come in for warm-up stretches, then take to the turf for a workout. Athletes practice agility, speed and endurance drills. After working up a good sweat, they kick back for a movie and a healthy snack.
The local Play 60 operation is spearheaded by JD Franklin and Carlos Hall, both personal trainers, and former professional football players.
Franklin and Hall said their main priority with Play 60 is to establish an active generation by teaching kids the importance of a healthy lifestyle.
"We try to teach the kids about nutrition, and we try to get the kids out of the house," Hall said. "We figured, we've got the spot, we've got the location... it was just something we wanted to do for Columbia."
At the camp, athletes are coached by qualified personal trainers, that can adjust each drill to match a kid's level of ability. The coaches said they hope to make exercise fun for everyone.
"Our vision for this program is to get as many kids out of the house and off the video games as we can," Hall said.
Franklin said today's kids live in a very different culture than he did as a child. He said it can be very tempting for kids to spend all their free time on electronic gadgets likes smart phones or video games.
"When I was a kid, we didn't have cell phones," Franklin said. "Our 'cell phones' were the play grounds, the bicycles, the skateboards... that's what we did for our playtimes."
Franklin said he hopes Play 60 will encourage kids to once again pursue more active forms of play.
"We're trying to bring that back."
In addition to honing their camper's athletic skills, the coaches also were very deliberate in creating a culture of encouragement among the athletes. After every drill, the coaches make sure athletes are congratulating one another, and challenging each other to push themselves.
"Sometimes all you need is a little boost or a push," Franklin said. "A handshake, a pat on the back or a high five or something to encourage that kid... sometimes that's all that kid may need."
At the beginning of the first practice, none of the campers knew anyone in their group. They were strangers... different ages, and from different schools. But by the time their parents came to pick them up, they were laughing and joking with one another.
Kylie Lawrence, one of the coaches at Play 60, said knowing how to work as a team is an important skill in any sport, and in life.
"You're a brotherhood in here, you're a family," Lawrence said.
After the first day of training, KOMU 8 news talked to all of the athletes about their thoughts on camp. The campers said the training was not always easy, but they all said they had a good time doing it.
"It was hard, but it was fun at the same time," one camper said.
"I encourage all the kids to come out here and have fun, and actually work hard," another athlete said.
Franklin said attendance has skyrocketed since day one.
The Play 60 camps will run through the first week of August. If you want to learn more about how you can sign your child up for Play 60, you can find more information here.