Next season begins this summer

Michael Barthelemy and Hailey Fine

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A motto ETHS seems to live by, and nobody should be more prepared for the start of the year than the Kits. ETHS’ athletic department places great emphasis towards offseason programs for student-athletes not just through the school year, but through the months of June, July and August.

With the school offering 24 different summer athletic programs for kids of all ages, the grind for many athletes truly never stops. In order to hone in on their skills before the beginning of the season, summer programs have become essential for athletes.

“The program allows you to meet players that you will be playing with in season and allows you to better your abilities with kids you go to school with,” junior Charlie Fies said. “This creates friendly competition and a fun environment.”

Yet even with the number of resources ETHS has to offer, many athletes gravitate towards attending sport-specific intensives at universities such as Northwestern. Typically done by athletes seeking college recruitment, these university sponsored camps are able to provide athletes with a resource high schools simply cannot match: interaction with university coaches that may lead to recruitment.

“I think it’s very valuable [to interact with high level coaching],” Northwestern Deputy Athletic Director Kevin White said. “I think it gives the student-athlete the opportunity to get away from Twitter or a phone call and meet a college coach face to face and have a discussion with him or her on their work.”

On top of the opportunity of recruitment, universities, because of the high level of donations and general profits, are able to offer athletes training at professional facilities.

Looking solely in Evanston with Northwestern, the Wildcats are owners to multiple world-class facilities in luxurious locations such as the lakefront. Ownership of this level of real estate makes Northwestern summer programs much more appealing to those who can afford it.

“We are what we consider home to the best facilities in the country, so it allows those that may have aspirations of being an athlete at the NCAA Division I level an opportunity to come and see what it’s like at a Big Ten college,” White explained.

But with those high-level facilities come high-level costs. For most programs sponsored by universities, the cost of an intensive is in the thousands, making it difficult to be accessed by the general public.

ETHS, on the other hand, builds its summer program on the basis that the camps are for the community and should be accessible to every student. This means that not only are the standard prices significantly lower, but the scholarship opportunities are much more
frequent.

According to current ETHS Athletic Director Chris Livatino, ETHS has supplied students with approximately $150,000 worth of scholarships for summer camp programs over the past 10 years, making the school’s message clear: everyone should have the chance to play and practice their favorite sport.

“Early on, we work hard to create ways to provide scholarship opportunities so all students of any age can participate in summer camps regardless of their family’s financial well-being,” Livatino said.

On top of the grand sum of money put into these programs, ETHS offers youth camps such as Girls Play Sports as a way to introduce young kids to new sports that they may not have had access to before.

Recognizing that oftentimes athletes are reluctant to try new sports when they have already committed and are highly-skilled at one, ETHS has created an inclusive way for the Evanston youth to experiment with new sports and expand their interests through Girls Play Sports.

“Part of our hope is that kids are going to try different sports in summer camp before they get to the high school,” Livatino explained. “That’s why we started Girls Play Sports seven years ago, so that they could do a camp where they touch all different sports. We haven’t done it for the boys mostly because in the society we live in, boys are given more of a chance to try sports at a younger age, so it’s not as much of an empetiment.”

The goal of ETHS’ summer camp program is to include everyone within the Evanston community regardless of financial well-being or athletic ability. Evanston is a city that has a plethora of drastically different household incomes which can typically cause divides between those who can afford these opportunities and those who can not. ETHS recognizes this and makes accessibility a priority.

While handing out scholarships isn’t unique to ETHS, schools such as Northwestern often do not put as much of an emphasis on the Evanston community, since many of their programs attract kids at a national level. Northwestern focuses more on recruitment and the future of its athletic programs, making it difficult to create a number of programs accessible specifically to Evanston students. The well-being of universities athletic programs appear to be the priority at universities such as NU, a high level Division I program. The $260 million facilities they are building are not for ETHS students, but for future Northwestern students.

While the appeal may still exist for students to choose programs at Northwestern rather than ETHS, the reality is that the two programs have different priorities, making them unfair to compare in the eyes of many.

“It’s not fair to try and compare a high school camp to a college summer camp. They just have different resources. We spend a lot of time on what we’re trying to do here and a lot of our camps have a pretty decent following nationally,” White explained.