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Feed the Beast: Summer camp provides athletic base for student-athletes

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It’s a sunny Monday afternoon in mid-June, the kind hot enough that it felt perfect for a visit to the pool or a trip to get some ice cream.

Maybe a few of the kids taking part in that afternoon’s BEAST Camp were headed that way before or after, but at the moment, it was another sign of dedication and commitment by taking time out of the summer to be a better Marshfield athlete down the road.

The camp is held two for two groups –– Grades 3-4 and 5-6 –– on Monday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons over June and July, one hour per each. In total, it's 23 days of commitment for kids, parents, and its organizer, Blue Jays football head coach Cody Bull.

“We do a lot of really good things and have really good people who want to help us,” Bull said. “We’ve got a ton of really committed parents. It’s in the middle of the day and it’s hard to get them here. It’s a community effort for sure. It just goes back to how I feel about marshfield and how good a place we’re in. It makes us unique because everyone’s in and backing the program, and kids are excited to come back year to year.”

The BEAST Camp lays the building blocks of what eventually becomes the more advanced Edge program that the high school student-athletes participate in when they reach that level.

“Our incoming sophomore group of girls and boys, a lot of those were beast campers,” Bull said. “The incoming eighth grade girls, over 20 were beast campers, and [so were] a large portion of our incoming junior class. We’ve got a nice pipeline of high achievers that have gone through this program.”

Bull stepped in and worked with former coach Damon Sieger five years ago to do kids at the youngest level that the BEAST Camp now involves, and has spearheaded the efforts since.

“What we’ve done is turn it into the base level of our programming,” Bull said. “We have a good time and it’s fun, but what we’re really trying to do is teach them body positions. Things like how to run and land properly, how to take off. A lot of things go into running form, and it’s hard when you’re in high school to spend time on those things that are required. There’s a lot of sports going on and kids have jobs. When we have them at younger ages, it’s a lot easier to work those specific positions and patterns.”

“Those third and fourth graders, it’s really important for them to stack skills. Our varsity athletes, there’s things they’ve learned and repetition they’ve gotten that’s helped them later in our Edge program.”

The kind of instruction going on that Monday is focused on those kinds of aforementioned basics. Early in the camp, it’s a lot of drilling stability and positioning. There’s emphasis placed on strength and flexibility to hold certain positions, or proper foot position when the foot isn’t on the ground to make for a great ground strike.

After the first few weeks, it’s moving on to jumping and landing to help the body absorb impact, a precaution of sorts to mitigate the strain on knees and the back. The last weeks, it’s focus on body movement, and for the older age group, there’s some lighter weight lifting involved, something that becomes more critical as student-athletes advance to junior high.

“The [youngest group] does a great job of paying attention and really trying to focus on doing things right,” Bull said. “They do a lot of things our high school kids do, it just takes us longer to get into those progressions. By the end of July, they’ll do things we’re doing in Edge, it just takes time to get there.”

Roy Kaderly assists Bull, and also gets to see the benefits of the program down the line as Marshfield varsity track and field head coach.

“As they get into high school, you see that they’re able to jump into what we’re doing right away without having the learning curve,” Kaderly said. “They’re leading the group, they can demonstrate it. They’re so much farther and they get it so much faster.”

“As a track coach, we’re doing a lot of speed development stuff here. We’ve never had a boys relay team finish where we did at state, and all the kids on that have either been a part of this, or Edge, or the junior high program from Day 1. The senior group was the first to ever have six years of lifting and stuff like this. All of our programs have benefitted from this stuff. Our seventh-grade girls this year I think were conference champions, every one, and they’ve been doing BEAST Camp. You can tell a big difference. And it’s not sport-specific; every kid can get something from this.”

Like with Edge, it’s more time dedicated in the summer for Bull, but it appears to be anything but a chore for him.

“I love watching it click for them,” Bull said. “You see a kid working on something and struggling, then they get it. You see the light come on and they get excited. Watching them have success and feel good about their successes, being focused on self-improvement, that kind of stuff is fun for me.”

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