By Martha Nodar

In a move to increase revenue and position itself as a leading contestant in sports training, Oglethorpe University is launching and operating its own co-ed sports camps, including tennis, volleyball, basketball, soccer and lacrosse, beginning in June.

Although Oglethorpe plans to continue renting its facilities to coaches, the Brookhaven school is now offering its own sports camps as a business venture, counting on the success of similar camps in the past. The revenue from the camps could help stabilize the university’s finances, a problem that has put the school under the scrutiny of the regional accrediting organization.

The university recently named Kurt Matthews as the director of Oglethorpe’s sports camps in addition to his responsibilities as the head volleyball coach.

Peter Howell, Oglethorpe’s assistant athletic director and head tennis coach, has run his own camp at Oglethorpe for several summers. He said the idea of the university offering its own camps had been discussed for some time, “but it took a while to evolve into practical application.”

Peter Rooney, the vice president of development and alumni relations, who is involved with public relations and campus use, said it makes sense for Oglethorpe to offer its own camps because of the availability and quality of the facilities and the staff.

“Our coaches are the best in their field and have the expertise to teach kids of all ages,” he said. “I frequently hear from native Atlantans who attended camp here during their youth, such as our own coach Howell.”

With a career spanning more than 30 years, Howell has a philosophy on good sportsmanship that began when he attended camp at Oglethorpe in the 1960s.

“The game of tennis depends on mutual trust,” he said. “I am required to give my opponent the benefit of the doubt. Tennis demands personal accountability and teaches life lessons through sports.”

While the ownership of the camps is new, the approach and many of the coaches are not.

“Athletes of all ages and ability levels will have the opportunity to learn the principles and techniques of each sport from seasoned professionals,” Matthews said. The camps target children 8 and older.

Parent Amy Harralson said she trusts the parents who recommended camps at Oglethorpe. Two of her children, Ansley and Grayson, attended camps there the past two summers and will return again this year.

Ansley, 11, found it was easy making friends at the camps and plans to attend volleyball and tennis camps this summer.

Rosemary Armstrong said she couldn’t believe the progress her 10-year-old daughter made after one week of tennis camp last year.

“The way the camps are set up is very unique,” she said. “Ashley-Scott had a friend by the end of the first day.”

Karen Ewing praised Howell and said the university was a great resource for her family “because there is always something going on for kids of all ages, not just college students.”

Rooney said: “We are committed to continuing the Oglethorpe tradition of quality education and providing our younger generation with the opportunities to form experiences they will cherish for a lifetime.”

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