Michael Taylor, a catch-all coach in Dadeville, goes above and beyond his call of duty to provide equal opportunities for all children, no matter their age or ability, to participate in sports and engage in healthy behaviors.
For the third year, Taylor will offer free sports camps every Monday and Tuesday from 5:30 p.m. until dusk June 10 to July 30. Held at the Dadeville Elementary School playground, the camps focus on all-around body mechanics with more than 20 different stations in which to participate.
“It doesn’t matter what sport you’re interested in, everyone has to work on running the correct way, practice drills that work on balance and emphasize stretching. I really push them, but they really love that,” said Taylor, who works as a coach full time across many sports for the Tigers.
Due to responsibilities with his employment, Taylor is accustomed to working with children with disabilities. His summer camps are open to any student as well, which includes kids with autism or other special needs.
“I want parents to know that I happily work with all kids, and I don’t want anyone to feel like they can’t go to camp or be an athlete,” Taylor said. “They are no different than anyone else.”
Taylor added that children are intuitive, and he loves watching them help one another out.
“Sometimes I just stand back, and the kids take over to show other kids how to do things. It’s just amazing for you to see that,” he said.
Since its inception, the camps have grown exponentially with about 60 children attending each day. There is no fee and no schedule, so students can attend any days they choose.
“It’s all about promoting youth to get off the sofa, leave behind the video games and get into some type of physical activity,” Taylor said. “Whatever you love to do, you need to put a lot of work into yourself.”
Whether it’s with an organized sport, cheerleading, band or other hobby, Taylor said, more kids move into new activities at the start of the school year after attending his camps.
“He wants children to have opportunities to stay in shape and surround themselves with other children to provide social interaction,” said Amber Pitts, who works with Taylor on publicity for the summer camps.
Currently, Taylor uses his own funding for equipment and necessary supplies. This way there is no excuse for a child to not be able to participate.
“Jackie Johnson is my No. 1 sponsor though,” Taylor said. “She provides a party at the end of the summer with barbecue, ice cream, awards, a waterslide and hosts a really fun day.”
Many other teachers and parents volunteer their time and services, as well. Sarah Poole is Taylor’s right hand and essentially sets up the camp, so Taylor can focus on the youngsters.
“She has been there since day one and stuck in there with me on the tough days,” Taylor said.
Instilling discipline on the field, he said, will reflect off the field, and it’s important to Taylor to teach these life lessons in addition to physical activity.
Many students return from college during the summer to help out at the camps, and Taylor makes sure to support and cheer on students during the year at whatever events in which they participate.
“Coach Taylor always makes time for children,” said Pitts. “A coach willing to go above and beyond for the children of the community is a coach we all need to follow.”