Athletics camps nurture future SFCC students
Children of all ages are catching the Panther spirit at SFCC athletics camps, leading them to become future students and athletes.
Over the past 11 years, SFCC coaches and players have taught roughly 2,300 campers about athletics and life.
“I think it’s valuable for the community to support our camps if they feel the need to send their kids to an atmosphere conducive for success in all phases,” said Rick Hitt, SFCC athletic director and head baseball coach. “We discuss both athletics and life at our camps.”
Since 1998, SFCC has hosted volleyball, softball, and baseball camps with attendance at each averaging between 25 and 40 campers.
The summer programs are primarily taught by the SFCC coaching staff and student athletes while the fall and winter camps are sometimes taught by the SFCC coaching staff in conjunction with coaching staffs from other colleges and/or former SFCC players who have gone on to perform well.
“We put a lot of time into these camps, and we pride ourselves on what we are teaching the campers,” said Charlotte Bauder, assistant volleyball coach. “We have a lot of experience and knowledge to share with campers, and parents can be sure their children are going to learn the basic fundamentals and more if they are willing to push themselves to the limit.”
The sporting camps not only provide campers the opportunity to improve their athletic abilities, but they serve as a way for the college to further its relationship with the community.
“These camps are special because it meshes with our philosophy of service to our community,” Hitt said. “We feel very connected with our surrounding community and staying in touch with our youth athletically continues to enhance that connection.”
Hitt said that one of the best aspects of the camps is the full-circle relationship of campers becoming SFCC athletes and students, and even some later becoming coaches.
“The camps bring parents and students to our campus, and they become familiar with it,” Bauder said. “When they get close to graduating, even if they don’t want to continue in athletics, they still want to attend our school.”
In fact, eight current SFCC athletes once attended camps as youth along with three coaches.
These students include baseball players Adam Simmons, Kyle Jackson, Cody Higgins, and Corey Topa, and softball player Heather Barnes. The volleyball players are Melissa Tullo, Ricki Albritton, and Kaneisha Hamilton, daughter of Subrina Hamilton, Account Revenues and Receivables.
Assistant Baseball Coach Chad Wright attended Hitt’s first camp as director in 1998 and is a current SFCC student. Andy Polk, assistant baseball coach, is also a former camper. Along with this, Bauder attended volleyball camps while in high school, played volleyball for SFCC during the 1999 and 2000 seasons, and has been a coach for the past four years.
“Attending SFCC camps had a lot of influence on my decision to play for SFCC,” Bauder said. “I got to know the coaching staff really well over those few years at camps, and I loved the campus. I became very familiar with their coaching philosophies and what it took to be a Panther. When I was offered a scholarship to play, there was no hesitation in my mind where I wanted to be.”
After SFCC, Bauder went on to play volleyball at Palm Beach Atlantic University. In 2003, she moved back to Highlands County and was asked by Kim Crawford, SFCC head volleyball coach, to coach a 16 and under Club Crush team. Later that year, Crawford asked her to be an assistant SFCC volleyball coach.
“It was so amazing to transition from camper to athlete to coach,” Bauder said. “I went from being a girl who looked up to these great athletes to being one. And when it was my turn to help lead a camp, I felt honored. I loved passing down the knowledge I learned to the campers. Now it’s fun to see how these kids look up to our program. It’s also great to see the tradition continue.”
While Bauder’s journey led her straight to SFCC, Barnes’ wasn’t as direct.
“Growing up, I always wanted to get out of Avon Park and go to a Division I school,” Barnes said. “But when it came time to sign a scholarship, the small town feel was what I wanted. So I chose Stetson University. After one year there, I knew I wasn’t happy, so I immediately called Coach Carlos [Falla] and asked if I could play here. After attending the fastpitch camps for years, I knew without a doubt that I wanted to come to SFCC.”
SFCC softball camps are held on single Saturdays during the fall and one week during Christmas break. Softball camps are offered to grades 1 through 12.
Meanwhile, baseball camps are offered for five weeks over the summer and one week during Christmas break. These camps are open to grades 1 through 12. The baseball program hosts high school baseball showcase camps in November and December.
Along with this, the volleyball program holds its camps for one week in July and one week during Christmas break. However, its camps are offered to grades 7 through 12 due to the different variety of athlete it serves, Hitt said.
“We’ve really enjoyed every camp we’ve ever done,” Hitt said. “We hope we impact their lives athletically, but we also hope that every camper eventually becomes a student here whether they become an athlete or not.”