Milford School District’s “Bigger Faster Stronger” program, a summer camp designed to make a positive impact on Milford, improve academic and athletic performance while also providing student athletes with the tools they need to succeed helped students over the summer. The camp was established after the COVID pandemic to help student athletes prepare for the upcoming seasons.
“We started this last year with 35 student athletes, the majority of which were sixth graders,” Quinn Abbott said at a recent board meeting. “We started the camp after coming off of COVID with kids who were playing sports. We wanted to find them and get them involved in a way to get them ready to play. We began with volunteers and with Gary Zoll’s help, we put those 35 kids into classes where they did speed and conditioning workouts at the beginning of the school day. This past summer, we increased our number of kids in the program for the summer program to 125 and increased our staff to eight members.”
During the school year, the program also focuses on academics. Program leaders do grade checks and also monitor grades for program participants.
“Just the last marking period alone, overall in our program, we had a 3.17 GPA,” Abbott said. “We had 20 students on the honor roll and we had seven straight A’s. During the summer camp, we have three session and every day each camper will go to each session. One session is the weight room session. We get a lot of questions about how to get them in the weight room safely. The way we do it is we introduce lifts and exercise without weights and don’t add weights until they are ready.”
Each student is entered into a database with their height, weight, name, grade and data related to their workout. This includes how much they can bench press, how many squats they can do, their hanging time and more. Each student is provided a new workout worksheet that has the number of reps and sets they should do as well s the weight they should be able to manage. Each workout is computer generated and individualized for each student.
“The last session of our camp is the classroom session,” Abbott said. “And yes, it is still bigger, faster, stronger. We’re trying to make better athletes but also trying to make better students. Coach Faulkner runs the classroom sessions. They are called Faulk Talks. Every day they come in, there is a different topic on character development. He’s talked about how to be a good teammate. He’s talked about how to handle adversity, handle stress. He’s talked about how to tie a tie, how to correctly shake hands with someone.”
Abbott explained that one activity the students did over the summer was to write gratitude letters to someone who has impacted their life. They then had to deliver those letters to the recipient. Abbott explained that people often forget to acknowledge the people who have made an impact on their lives, so these students were able to write a letter and make sure the recipient got it.
“We also had the Bo Tkach Foundation come in,” Abbott said. “If you’re not familiar with the Bo Tkach Foundation, Coach Tkach came in and talked about suicide prevention and mental health. It’s not an easy conversation to have, but I think it is a necessary conversation with our young athletes and young students. And he did a great job explaining everything that needs to be talked about and allowed students to answer questions and answered those questions in a manner that they will be able to understand.”
Abbott also thanked their sponsors, including Arena’s who provided a $50 gift card for the “Beast of the Week.” This was a student who did everything right, who realized that the strongest thing to do is to do the right thing, be a good teammate and be positive. At the end of the year, four awards were given, and the Dark Horse Foundation provided $50 in Dick’s Sporting Goods gift cards to each of those recipients. Other sponsors included Hunter Emory’s State Farm office and Jamie Masten of Masten Realty.
“Melody Mackert, a local realtor, came in and talked about what it means to be a female athlete and how empowering that canb e and what we want in the next generation,” Abbott said. “She gave all of the girls in the camp a pink and gray t-shirt for the Lady Bucs. Our last sponsor was All Blown Up who provided an inflatable for our end of year tailgate for families.”
Abbott also stated that they hold the participants to a higher standard.
“We hold them accountable for their actions in the classroom, in the hallways and on the athletic field,” Abbott said. “We’re a very diverse program. We have students from many different cultures. We have boys, we have girls, all from sixth to 12th grade. We have kids that play many different sports. At the end of the day, it makes them feel better and that’s why this program is successful.”
One of the things Abbott pointed out was that some of the students were in eighth grade or would soon be in eighth grade. At the end of that year, the students would be able to choose what high school they wanted to attend, whether it be Milford, Polytech or Sussex Tech. Of the eighth graders who had been in the program, all of them chose Milford because no other school has a program like Bigger Faster Stronger.
“This is exactly the kind of program Milford needs,” Board member Dr. Adam Brownstein said. “I know it builds character. I know I am looking at pictures and seeing boys and girls across all ethnicities, all different weights. As a physician, I deal with obesity in people as adults. This is a good way to get kids who might otherwise become disinterested in remaining athletic over the summer and also, you are teaching them life skills.”
Board member Jean Wylie commended the program, stating that this was a great way to keep students engaged over the summer. Board member David Vezmar told Abbott that if they needed any support from the board, they should not hesitate to ask as this was a very valuable program.
“I’ve said it in this forum,” School board president Jason Miller said. “I’ve said that the connection between the student and athletics is important. It is what gets them in school and puts the focus on the classroom so that they get to do the athletic stuff after school. I really appreciate what you guys are doing and look forward to seeing more from that program and watching you build that program. This is something we can hang our hat on and say we are exceptional above others.”
Abbott also thanked his staff which include Matt Faulkner, Tristan Brennan, Juwan Sivels, Jason Jumper, Rafiq Henry, Mackenzie Reed and Tony Hazzard.
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