With participation rates in sports on the decline, Benton is looking to combat the trend by pushing out information to young students.

Benton kicked off its three-day multi-sports camp Tuesday for the second straight year. The co-ed camp is offered to incoming first- through sixth-graders for free.

“The rate of participation in high school in all sports has been declining recently and that’s a national trend,” Benton football coach Kevin Keeton said. “We want kids to have the opportunity to try a lot of different things.”

According to a recent report by the Sports & Fitness Industry Association and the Aspen Institute, youth sports participation rates have dropped over the years. Over a decade ago, 45% of children ages 6 to 12 played a team sport regularly, while only 37% of kids do now.

Throughout three days, the campers at Benton will learn the fundamentals of football, basketball, baseball, track and wrestling.

Keeton said he wants to continue adding more sports to the camp.

“We want this thing to grow. We want to do at least seven or eight different sports,” Keeton said.

Around 40 kids came to the multi-sports camp Tuesday. Boys and girls were shooting hoops on the basketball court and throwing footballs out on the field.

Benton’s coaching staff and student-athletes work with the campers on each activity.

“It’s been a fun time,” Benton senior Gage Thomas said. “I like how (the campers) kind of look up to me. It feels nice.”

Thomas showed the campers Tuesday how the defensive side of football works. He taught the kids how to get in a ready position through a variety of drills.

The 17-year-old plays football as well as golf at Benton and said being a multi-sport athlete has greatly benefited him in high school.

“You have more opportunity to make friends out there. If I didn’t take golf, I would never have the friends I have now,” Thomas said.

Kristen Carver can be reached

at kristen.carver@newspressnow.com.

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