0627-Dadeville sports camp.jpg

Lizi Arbogast / The Outlook Kids were put through a series of agility drills during Tuesday's free sports camp in Dadeville.

Now in its third year, Dadeville’s free sports camp has seen exponential growth.

“It’s not just Dadeville anymore,” said coach Michael Taylor, who works with the high school and started the camp in 2017. “It’s Beulah, Opelika, Auburn, Coosa. We’ve got kids from Alex City up here.”

The free sports camp is held from 5:30 p.m. until dusk every Monday and Tuesday evening in June and July, and it’s completely open to kids of all ages. For the first two years, it had been hard to reach a variety of kids age-wise, but now Taylor is seeing kids as young as 3 years old take part all the way up to entering high school age.

More than 60 kids poured around the playground at Dadeville Elementary on Tuesday night, and Taylor along with a host of volunteer coaches does a great job of mixing discipline with fun and sports.

“I put two words together: student and athlete,” Taylor said. “A lot of people don’t understand those two words and a lot of kids just want to be an athlete. You have some that are a student-athlete, so that’s the biggest thing I try to do is make them understand you have to be a good student if you want to go the distance as far as being a good athlete.”

With most of the kids showing up every Monday and Tuesday — it’s also a good break for parents to drop their children off in a trusted place for a few hours every week — Taylor said he also puts an emphasis on making sure the activities vary from night to night. Tuesday, he and the rest of the coaches were putting the kids through a series of running and agility drills but another night may be football, basketball, soccer or some other sport.

He also tries to instill the idea of teamwork into the kids at a young age, but it’s still important to make it fun.

“That’s kind of easy though because you make it competitive,” Taylor said. “We try to let the kids be kids too. We let them play some and I make a lot of jokes, so that makes it a lot more fun.”

Benjamin Russell girls basketball coach Latreisha Moon was out helping out Tuesday night, and Taylor said the more people he can reach like Moon, the more growth he’ll see at the camp.

“We want to reach out to a lot of different citizens and coaches to get them to come out here and spread the word around Tallapoosa County,” Taylor said. “It’s open to all counties but especially just here in Tallapoosa County because we don’t have the same access as Auburn, Opelika, places like that. Whatever we’ve got, we have to share.”

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