BY BRITTNEY BENNETT
STILWELL – Nearly 40 campers came together to enhance their athleticism, wellness and overall character while learning from professional athletes and coaches during the Keetoowah Fit: Sports and Wellness Day held June 8 at the Maryetta Football Field.
“We had a great turnout and are excited that we had the opportunity again this year to partner with Day of Champions Sports to bring an elite-level camp to the children in our communities,” said Travis Wolfe, UKB Special Projects and Events Coordinator. “It gives our tribal children access to opportunities they otherwise might not get, while also learning more about health and wellness.”
Day of Champions Sports is managed by President and CEO Coach Ken Heupel, who has more than 20 years of coaching experience at the NCAA level. His mission is to teach children the Four Principles of Leadership: discipline, respect, trust and hard work. Through these qualities, he works on equipping individuals to reach their full potential on and off the field.
The June 8 event was free and open to children 8 to 18-years-old, with activities beginning at 9 a.m.
Several coaches with experiencing playing and teaching at the NFL, NCAA Division I, II and III and NAIA levels were all on hand to help children run through drills testing hand and eye coordination, strength, endurance and speed.
In between drills, children would also group together and discuss the four principles and how best to apply them to everyday life.
Camp activities finished at 3 p.m., but not before each group participated in a little friendly tug of war competition and several campers were awarded tokens of appreciation for exemplifying the four principles throughout the duration of the day.
Wolfe’s own nephew took part in the day and has seen a change since the event.
“My nephew was hesitant at first because it involved tearing him away from Fortnite, but he was also afraid that he wouldn’t be able to at the level the coaches wanted him to be,” said Wolfe. “I think he thought it was going to be like military camp, but I saw him give so much effort because of the encouragement that the coaches gave him. He had a challenging, but rewarding time at the Keetoowah Fit Day. Since then he’s shown more activity at home and his confidence is much greater. The coaches had a positive impact on him.”
Sam Kingcade, head football coach at Maryetta Public Schools, said he was honored that his school could host the event and saw it as an opportunity for him to also learn something new.
“I’ve been observing. I appreciate how they hold these kids responsible for their actions and we will also carry on some of the drills that they’ve done,” he said. “I think this is a chance for these kids to advance themselves and I’m glad they are taking advantage of it and getting out of the house and exercising. There’s an eclectic group of coaches that are here today and if these kids can take at least one thing new away from each coach, then it gives them something to put in their tool bag during the season or in a game.”
Day of Champions Sports Chief of Staff Logan Parli facilitated the day’s events and is himself a graduate of the camp and its combine.
He graduated from Walters High in Walters, Okla., before competing at the college level at Eastern Arizona.
“As a young Native American I, just like most of these kids, didn’t feel like I would go very far,” he said. “This camp and the combine were very empowering to me. They let me know that if I had the discipline, the respect, the trust and the hard work, if I had all those principles, I can go as far as I want to in life. That’s what I hope we’ve instilled in these kids and they can go as far as they want to at home, in school and in their field of interest. I know we’re learning and I know the tribe is learning and these kids are learning.”