Helias softball camp opens up to younger students

Claire Ludwig throws the ball to home plate during fielding practice Tuesday at Helias’ softball camp.

Claire Ludwig throws the ball to home plate during fielding practice Tuesday at Helias’ softball camp. Photo by Julie Smith.

They say change is hard, so it’s always nice when that move turns out to be a good one.

That’s been the case so far during the Helias summer softball camp, as the addition of a new age group has been a positive change.

For the first time, the camp is offering a session for those entering grades 3-6 in the fall. And with a dozen players taking part, it’s a good first step for the Lady Crusaders.

“We normally have just been doing (grades) 7-9, but we added 3-6 to see if there was any interest,” Helias head coach Dan Campbell said. “We had some pretty good players. If we can catch them early and build some fundamentals with them, that’s going to pay off for us later on.”

The change in age group brings with it a change in coaching style.

“The attention span definitely goes down after awhile, so we try to mix in breaks and keep it to an hour and a half and keep their attention as long as we can,” Campbell said. “You realize at that age, you’re going to lose them now and then. So we try to reel them back in, but have some fun at the same time. Just teaching them the basics is the biggest thing at that age.”

The younger group has just one more day, ending today, while the session for grades 7-9, will run through Thursday.

“It’s been great weather, you can’t argue with it,” Campbell said. “Hopefully the rain will stay away another day or two and we can get through it.”

That second session boasts 15 players, one of the bigger sessions for that group the past few years, and Campbell said that group has gotten some good work done.

“It’s nice, we like getting a look at our incoming freshmen and spending a couple days with them before the season starts to see what we’ve got coming in,” he said. “Plus, we can tell them what they need to work on to help them out during their summer ball for the next couple months. We try to go watch them play a little bit in the summer and see how they’re progressing.”

The camp is the start of a brief busy span for the Helias players, who this week started a summer league hosted by Battle High School, the new school opening this fall in Columbia.

“It’s a little summer league with 12 teams, so we played (Monday) night and played Blair Oaks and got some good experience,” Campbell said. “We’ll be playing up there the next five weeks.

“It’s hit and miss (in terms of attendance), we were missing several players, but everybody is with all the other stuff going on. It just gives you a chance to play and see who’s where and try to fill some spots before the season starts. Plus the facility up there is phenomenal, so the kids are really enjoying that.”

The league will last until the second week of July, which begins the “dead period” mandated by the Missouri State High School Activities Association that stipulates no contact between schools and their athletes. The Lady Crusaders will get a few weeks off after that before hitting it hard once the school year begins.

“The kids get a full month off to go be kids and do some vacations or whatever they need to do before we start the high-school season,” Campbell said. “So I think it’s a pretty good schedule for them. Get some work in, take a break and then hit our season.”

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