There’s so many more lessons to be learned from sports than just how to run, tackle and shoot a basketball. Life lessons are really the most important part especially at a young age.

That’s exactly what coach Michael Taylor wanted to focus on this year during the third year of the Dadeville youth sports camp.

“This year we learned more about student-athletes,” Taylor said. “I pushed that more. I also talked about religion. That’s one of the things we’re missing is getting churches involved, and we gotta find new ways to reach these kids. It’ll cut back on crime, discipline problems in school and this whole thing is about being a student. 

“One thing we talked about is the word love. They all understand love now, and that was the biggest thing that was my goal.”

The free youth sports camp has been running every Monday and Tuesday throughout the summer and came to a close Tuesday night. On the final day of the camp, Taylor let the kids be kids and celebrated their accomplishments with a cookout for the camp participants and their parents.

All the kids also received trophies that were donated by parents. Taylor also had a back-to-school backpack giveaway which were filled with school supplies, and football helmets were also donated to be handed out to some of the kids.

Dadeville’s camp which is open to any age, any gender and any location is completely free of charge, and in order to do that, Taylor has needed the help of his community. Now in its third year, the camp has grown to cater as many as 80 kids some nights, but none of it would be possible without outside help.

“I had a lot of support from (Dadeville High School) principal (Chris) Hand and (Dadeville football) coach (Richard) White,” Taylor said. “Dadeville Elementary lets me use their facility. Jesse Foster, the boys basketball coach, they all pitched in to give me everything that I needed. I had a high school coach out here checking on me every day. I also got a lot of people in the community — grandparents, great grandparents, teachers — just stopping by to say thank you.” 

While the camp offers lessons in all sports from basketball, volleyball and football to dance, cheerleading and band, Taylor said his biggest focus this year was actually track.

“If you run track, every sport needs speed,” Taylor said. “I pushed more agility and the 40-yard dash. Any sport you play, you gotta be mobile. You gotta be able to run fast and have endurance so that was the biggest thing. But we touched a little bit of everything this year.” 

Taylor was especially happy to see how much the camp has grown with participants from Alexander City, Auburn, Beulah, Tallassee and Coosa County. And although being a good student-athlete was the main focus this year, Taylor said his goal for the future is to keep pushing education.

“Education is always the big thing if you’re going to be an athlete,” Taylor said. “My goal is to get at least 80% of my kids to college. We gotta push education more because that’s our future. We don’t talk about education enough as far as sports wise.”

Lizi Arbogast is the sports editor at Tallapoosa Publishers, Inc.