Despite the damp Friday evening, New Paltz’s Athletic Center was anything but dreary, with soccer games, round robin tournaments and the sounds of music and cheers that filled the air. For just one evening, the basketball court was transformed into a world of opportunities for any kid to do whatever sports they wanted, and this is all thanks to Kids Sports Night.
Hosted by SUNY New Paltz’s own athletic coaches, the Kids Sports Night is a community event in which kids and student-athletes come together to play all kinds of sports, ranging from basketball to soccer to even dodgeball. Any kid from ages 5 to 15, can sign up and play alongside various New Paltz student-athletes across all teams. At the heart of the event, it’s not just about the games, but the connections built between kids and the wider sports community at SUNY New Paltz.
As Mike Eckberg, head women’s soccer coach and program collaborator puts it, it’s about “[creating] a fun, energetic, positive environment surrounding many different sports.” In fostering this environment, he continues to say, “this can create greater connection and bridge a relationship with the youth of our community outside our college campus.” Fostering these connections and building up a community around a passion for sports is what Kids Sports Night sets out to do.
Though the kids are the primary beneficiaries, the student-athletes also benefit in giving back. Kaitlyn Shaw, captain of the women’s lacrosse team, says, “[Kids Sports Night] basically is a great way for us to connect and give back to the community,” further underscoring the benefits of the program to all parties.
Regarding the future of the program, the department is looking to expand the dates they currently offer to translate into a monthly opportunity and increase their number of participants. As of now, advertisements largely rely on word of mouth, according to Eckberg, which is why he emphasizes consistency as the program’s number one priority in expanding itself.
For children who attended the athletic program’s Hawk Sports Camp over the summer, Eckberg describes Kids Sports Night as, “basically the same thing…it’s just a micro version.” Having this program not only provides the kids with something productive to do, Eckberg also speaks to the parents, where their new free time would be “a great time for date night.”
Kids Sports Night is much more than just a program; it provides kids with new opportunities to get out and build connections with another part of their community. It promotes a life-long love for sports and for the people who are there to support them every step of the way.
Parents interested in signing their kids up can visit www.kidssportsnight.totalcamps.com to purchase tickets for future program events. All proceeds go towards funding for the Athletics Department.