The Glenview, Ill. club began its Junior Sports Club nearly 50 years ago. Today, the program offers everything from golf and pickleball to sailing and stand-up paddleboard, and involves between 300 and 400 kids. Also, Champions Run in Omaha, Neb. sold rubber ducks and hosted a series of duck-racing meets during scheduled pool breaks, with prizes awarded to the winners.
(As featured in C+RB’s 14th Annual Ideas Issue, June 2020.)
The annual youth camp at Valley Lo Club (VLC) in Glenview, Ill., which is known as the Junior Sports Club, was started in the mid-1970s by a group of Moms at the club. To honor the tradition, group photos of each year’s campers are displayed at the club, dating back to the camp’s beginning.
As the camp grew in size over the years, Valley Lo transitioned its Director position from seasonal to year-round, says General Manager Judy Higgins. Once a camp ends in August, the club begins planning for the following year.
Each season, Valley Lo hires four leadership staff members—Assistant Director, Program Director, Counselor-in-Training Director and Head Counselor—and between 70 and 80 general counselors (36 to 40) and sport instructors (30 to 34), Higgins says. In addition, 12 lifeguards are scheduled for camp operations.
“Enrollment for camp is 300 to 400 children each year,” Higgins says. “Parents are able to choose which weeks their children attend.”
Camp groups are divided by grade and gender—second grade through eighth grade—and Valley Lo offers two, two-week counselor-in-training programs for ninth- and 10th-grade children.
Programming includes: golf, platform tennis and pickleball, fishing, archery, sailing, boating, pool, lawn games, field sports, arts and crafts, standup paddleboard, and beach fun.
The camp, which costs $244/week for second to fifth grade and $284/week for sixth to eighth grade, runs for seven weeks.
“Each Wednesday, we send the middle-school kids on a field trip and offer three optional trips as well,” Higgins says. “We also bring in special events, such as the Jesse White Tumblers, Wheel of Wisdom Game Show, Mad Scientist, Magician, etc.
“Week 6 is our annual Olympics week,” she adds. “Kids are assigned to a country, and compete in a number of activities. We have a flag ceremony, Olympic torch and medals.”
Making Needed Adjustments
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, Valley Lo has decided to cancel field trips and not hold camp on rainy days for the 2020 season. Options are being reviewed with the Junior Sports Club Committee, including block schedules, staggered times and alternating days; cohorts and group capacities; facility zoning; boxed picnic lunches; screening; and personal protection equipment requirements.
“It’s been tough for the parents and kids, as they have been e-learning since the end of March,” Higgins says. “They have missed their year-end school activities and their friends. It’s time to get outside and play.
“Summer camps provide that and more—skill and social development, self-confidence, independence and making new friends,” she adds. “Our camp is no different—except at Valley Lo, our parents know the club, the staff and the other VLC families that participate.
“We have new safety measures that include smaller groups, screening, shortened days and zoned programming,” Higgins continues. “Portable hand-washing stations are being placed throughout the property. They are eager to participate in any type of camp we can provide, given state and local health-department guidelines.”
Members have shared with Higgins that some overnight and specialty sport camps have cancelled their 2020 seasons, leading more Valley Lo members to look at the Junior Sports Club, and also asking the club to increase the number of weeks their children can participate in the camp.
“Prospective members see these measures, too,” she says. “Public amusement parks and pools may not be as attractive—if they even open this summer.”
The Goal: Provide fun physical activities for between 300 and 400 youth members of Valley Lo Club during the summer months while carrying on the decades-long tradition of the Junior Sports Camp.
The Plan: Offer a wide range of sports and activities, including golf, platform tennis, pickleball, fishing, archery, sailing and more, for kids divided by grade and gender.
The Payoff: An increasing number of members have joined the Junior Sports Club, especially during the coronavirus pandemic, and prospective members are drawn to the program as well.
How do you inject a little extra juice into a typical Saturday afternoon at the pool? Easy—turn it into a duck-racing meet and let the action begin.
Champions Run in Omaha, Neb. sold the rubber ducks at three for a buck and numbered them so their “owners” could be tracked. At every scheduled safety rest break for the pool, kids were lined up and told to generate a wake by kicking vigorously. The ducks then got tossed in the water and enthusiastically urged on to the finish line at the other side of the pool by their backers, because prizes including shirts, tumblers and cash were at stake for winning entries.