Sports clinics connect young athletes with students

SVSU hosted a softball and baseball Community Youth Day clinic Saturday, Sept. 14, at the softball and baseball fields. The clinics were sponsored by Jolt Credit Union.

They partnered with the SVSU Athletic Department to host free one-hour sports clinics for children in grades K-8.

Jennifer Boehm, the athletic development coordinator and tennis coach, helped plan the event.

“We offer six clinics throughout the school year that are run by our varsity studentathletes and coaches,” she said. “Each
event features a different sport and is held in conjunction with either a home varsity football or basketball game.”

This clinic focused on softball and baseball. Families and children who attended the clinic were invited to attend the football game.

Boehm said an average of 70 to 80 children attend each clinic, but they have had clinics with over 250 attendees.

“The clinics offer age-appropriate basic skills activities,” Boehm said. “There are also great prize raffles for bikes, gift certificates, duffle bags and even $250 college scholarships.”

Katy Ratajczak, an outfielder and nursing sophomore, helped at the clinicals for the last two years. She said she was excited to return this year.

“All the kids’ reactions are really fun to see,” she said. “We try to make it as fun as we can for them. Watching them have fun and trying to apply all the things we taught them really gives you a warm feeling that you’re doing good for them.”

Josh Riggs, a pitcher and outfielder, said he likes to volunteer at the events because he loved doing clinics growing up.

“I volunteer at these events because they’re awesome,” he said. “If I could go back and be their size, I totally would because growing up, we had a few clinics where I’m from, and I always loved doing them.”

The clinics were set up in different stages, including base running, ball throwing and T-work. Ratajczak’s favorite station to coach is throwing.

“I like doing the throwing station because I am a sidearmer, and, growing up, it really messed up my arm,” she said. “So, I like to teach them how to properly throw so they do not mess up their arm like I did. It took me a while to retrain my muscles to learn how to throw the correct way.”

Riggs’ favorite station to coach is hitting.

“I think all the stations are all equally as fun,” he said. “But hitting is my favorite. We were taking some fly balls, and seeing the kids reacting was a lot of fun.”

Ratajczak said she would volunteer for next year’s clinic because of the positive impact it brings to the community.

“I think it shows we are one big community,” she said. “We’re not just a college that keeps to ourselves and only cares about our own athletes. We try to cooperate and include everyone to show them, ‘This is SVSU. This is who we are.’ We can show we are one big family, but we also include the entire community in that family.”

Boehm also said the clinics help SVSU build a relationship with young children and families in the community.

“It is a unique experience that we can offer young kids the opportunity to interact with and learn from college athletes and coaches,” she said. “At the same time, it is also a great experience for our athletes to be role models for these kids while giving back to the community.”

Riggs said the event was an important way to keep young kids playing baseball.

“Besides keeping the sport going, seeing them happy is the biggest thing for me,” he said. “It gets them outside and moving.”

He said he would rather help with clinics than play some days.

“This is more enjoyable than playing because you can forget about how stressful it can be and relax with them. They show you how fun the game can be.”

The clinics also help expose children to the idea of attending college.

“As the kids reach high school age and are looking at their options for college, we want them to have that positive connection with SVSU so that they strongly consider attending our university,” Boehm said.

SVSU’s next clinic is Saturday, Sept. 21. They will offer a free basketball clinic noon to 1 p.m. before the 1:30 p.m. football game against Michigan Tech.

Kaitlyn Farley

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