June 15, 2016 8:15AM
Summer is the only season of the year that Pittsburg State University athletes aren’t in the thick of competition, but that doesn’t mean PSU’s coaches are taking it easy.
Thousands of high school, middle school and grade school students are participating in a long list of summer sports camps that keep both the coaches and many of their student athletes busy through June and July.
Forty-two high school teams from Kansas, Missouri, Oklahoma and Arkansas participated in a recent camp held by PSU Women’s Basketball Coach Lane Lord. Another 60 high school teams are signed up for a camp he’s running June 15-17. When a camp for elite high school players on June 28 and a camp for third-through-eighth graders July 8-11 are completed, more than 1,200 players plus their coaches and parents will have participated in the summer women’s basketball camps.
“This is the biggest it’s ever been,” said Lord, who started the women’s basketball camps at PSU nine years ago.
Even with the improvements in PSU’s facilities in recent years, camps of this size require a lot of coordination. In addition to John Lance Arena, the camps use basketball courts at the Student Rec Center, Pittsburg High School and Colgan High School. Lord said they hire about 70 referees and several drivers for shuttles to transport the participants. About 15 players and assistant coaches help run the camps.
Lord said the camps are both a learning experience for the teams and also a showcase for the university.
“We’ve had 25 players on our teams that have been in these camps at some point in time,” Lord said. “Many others have ended up as Pitt State students, even though they didn’t continue to play basketball in college.”
Earlier this summer, Head Men’s Basketball Coach Kevin Muff held a boys’ basketball camp and a series of football camps began in early June. On Wednesday, June 15, the Jim Harbaugh Primetime Elite Football Camp will be held in Carnie Smith Stadium and the Tom Myers Baseball Camp will conclude. A football camp for offensive and defensive line players will conclude the week. A series of volleyball camps are also scheduled throughout June and July.
PSU Director of Intercollegiate Athletics Jim Johnson said the summer camps are a great resource for high school students and a tangible benefit for the community at a time when most college students are away from campus.
“For high school and younger students, this is an opportunity to get instruction from some of the most respected coaches in both the MIAA and Division II,” Johnson said. “It’s also great for the community, because even those students who stay in on-campus housing, often eat and shop in the community, as do the parents and coaches who accompany them.”
Like Lord, Johnson said participating in a summer sports camp at PSU can help draw students to the campus, even when they don’t play sports at the collegiate level.
“We think students who use our great facilities and experience the Pitt State campus atmosphere are much more likely to choose PSU when it’s time for them to make their college decision,” Johnson said.