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2-4-1 Holding Successful Sports Camps Amid Pandemic

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton 

2-4-1 Sports is holding two camp sessions at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford, and has camps scheduled for other town as well as one Canada this summer.

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

By Ronni Newton

In early June, when Steve Boyle announced that 2-4-1 Sports would be able to hold camp session at Kingswood Oxford this summer, he said he was “beyond excited.”

As he welcomed 162 kids to the first of two sports camp sessions in West Hartford last week, Boyle, who runs the camp with his wife, Kerry, was just as jubilant.

That’s not to say that that 2-4-1’s 2020 camps – which follow the theme of the organization’s tagline, “life’s 2 short 4 just 1 sport” – are the same as they have been in previous years. The program started more than a decade ago based on the theory of multiple sports participation as an advantage that leads to “reduced injuries, reduced burnout, increased speed and quickness, increased competitiveness and yes, an increase in production and appreciation of your favorite sport.”

This year the camps are being run exclusively outside, Monday through Thursday from 8 a.m.-2 p.m. The day starts and ends early to hopefully avoid the chance of afternoon thunderstorms forcing everyone indoors. And while the campers are still engaged in a variety of sports, each cohort moves through their activities together during the day.

Upon arrival the first day “the kids were just so happy to see each other,” Boyle said. Many had not played with their friends in months.

“The energy of the kids is awesome,” he said, and he is so thankful to families for trusting that the camp will be safe for their children.

The first week of camp there were 15 cohorts, ranging in size from eight to 13 kids. While the members of each group stayed together, and masks are not required for campers while they are outdoors (they are for all counselors), there is no interaction between the separate groups that spread out on the athletic fields at Kingswood Oxford. There are contingency plans in place in case of rain, with classrooms available in one of the buildings – enough capacity so that each cohort has its own completely four-walled space. Fridays are set aside in case a day of camp has to be rescheduled, but the weather has cooperated thus far.

Campers are arranged roughly by age, but since families can choose to have their kids cohort together the age ranges are wider than they are in most years. Arranging the cohorts has been one of the biggest challenges, Boyle said.

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

The youngest campers are entering first grade, and the oldest are rising ninth-graders.

Boyle has a national reputation for his work with physical literacy and has been given presentations throughout the world. In addition to providing an outlet for local kids, 2-4-1’s program this summer is serving as a test case of protocols for camps – as well as schools and sports – that need to be implemented for activities to safely resume amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.

“We helped to develop impacts on protocols happening in camps like ours,” said Boyle.

Some of the rules that were initially developed didn’t make practical sense, he said. “We can’t wash the volleyball between every touch,” he said, or it wouldn’t even be the same game.

“I’ve had folks from Shape America reach out,” said Boyle, referencing the organization that sets the standards for health and physical education.

In addition to West Hartford, 2-4-1 already hosted its first camp in Monroe this summer and has programs coming up in Farmington, Suffield, and in Canada. They were planning a program for Denver, but municipal leaders decided not to allow any outside vendors this year and he had to give refunds to 120 campers. Boyle is disappointed not to be able to visit the new Canadian program due to travel restrictions.

The West Hartford camp draws participants from 10 area towns. “Historically we have campers from other countries,” Boyle said. Those are typically campers who are visiting family and friends, but travel restrictions has kept the program much more local.

On one of the KO fields, a group was playing a baseball-type game, using a tennis racquet and following kickball rules.

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

“We take equipment you already have,” Boyle said, and modify a game so that kids can easily play it anywhere.

The staff – 33 in all – are a diverse group that includes former Olympian Ryan Radmanovich, Hall High School coaches Frank Robinson and Bryan Moretti, and college students.

The campers take a lunch break every day, enjoying lunches under tents with their cohorts provided by Hall’s Market, which partnered with 2-4-1 this summer. The kids order their lunches in advance, and the counselors hand them out.

“I like kickball, and Capture the Flag, and soccer,” one young camper said.

Another said “meeting new friends” is her favorite part, while one camper said he likes volleyball and gaga the best, and another said he enjoys the wall jumps.

Boyle said that 2-4-1 had been on track to have 300 participants in each week of the West Hartford camp this summer, but he is happy with the level of participation. They could have ultimately gone as high as 180 campers based on protocols, but he said that would have been tight.

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

About half of the campers were planning to sign up for the second week.

“A lot of the families had so much positive feedback [after the first few days] they begged their parents to come back,” Kerry Boyle said.

One 13-year-old camper told his parents, “I didn’t know what to expect but this was mad fun,” Steve Boyle recounted.

The final day of each session generally includes a special celebration, but this year that had to be modified. The cohorts will still gather, receive the iconic 2-4-1 car magnets, and honor the winners of each cohort’s rock-paper-scissors competition.

In addition to the outdoor camp programs, Boyle is hosting a virtual camp, in partnership with Growing Great Schools, for New Britain first-graders. There are 60 participants, and the program includes physical literacy, play, nutrition, and mindfulness.

And 2-4-1 is also hosting the “Track is Back” summer series at Hall High School – the only track meet being held this summer in the region.

For more information about 2-4-1 and its programs, visit the website.

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Camp directors Kerry (left) and Steve Boyle. 2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

Hall football coach Frank Robinson is one of the counselors at 2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo credit: Ronni Newton

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Steve Boyle

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Steve Boyle

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Steve Boyle

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Steve Boyle

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Steve Boyle

2-4-1 camp at Kingswood Oxford in West Hartford. Photo courtesy of Steve Boyle

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