Better Together: How Intercollegiate Athletics and Housing Provide a Great Youth Camp Experience

Students participate in UW Athletics badger Volleyball camp

Article by Sarah Barnes
Photos by Joel Ninmann

While there may not be as many traditional college students on campus during the summer months, the University of Wisconsin-Madison is still buzzing with activities. The Division of University Housing serves 17,000 guests each summer, and the residential and commuter sports camps continue to grow. Young athletes represent 5,300 of these guests who come to campus to participate in sports camps sponsored by the Division of Intercollegiate Athletics. By partnering through a year-round planning process, Badger Sports Camps and Housing fine-tune the logistics of organizing 36 youth camps and providing the best Wisconsin Experience to young athletes.

When youth campers attend a camp, it may be their first experience with the University. By providing connections to resources throughout their entire experience, campers feel like a part of the campus community. Director of Camp Administration, Tracy Chynoweth, explains, “With all of our facilities being here on campus, it just makes sense for our campers to live in the residence halls. Kids love to work out in the same facilities as student-athletes, eat in the dining markets, and feel like they are part of the Badger community.”

Organizing room assignments, checking in campers, setting up meeting spaces, and providing three meals a day are all routine roles for University Housing staff to ensure a safe, enjoyable customer experience in the residence halls. A post-camp survey shared “As a parent, I like that the dining was right by the residence hall location. The food had lots of great choices that my daughter really liked.”

The University Housing Dining and Culinary Services team provides delicious, healthy food selections, no matter the special dietary requests. Sharon Seagren, Director of Conference Services, explains, “Housing has the trained chefs and personnel to give campers and parents varied options when they’re at camp. There are always gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan options with lots of variety at every meal in the marketplaces.”

University Housing also employs a full-time registered dietitian who manages menu guidance for hundreds of guests with food sensitivities and allergies. Campers and parents alike can rely on the dietitian to provide assistance before and during the camper’s time on campus. A youth camper explained, “I really liked how I was able to eat safely at Gordon Avenue Market with my peanut allergy.”

As a father of three and an experienced camp organizer, Chynoweth knows the concern that can arise when you send a child with an allergy or dietary restriction to camp. “Working with Housing, you know it’s all taken care of.” Chynoweth remembers a recent experience that reminded him of the benefit of having campers dine in the residence halls. “I was at Four Lakes Market, and I saw many campers eating fresh fruits and salads for lunch. They are able to eat things that actually fuel their bodies.”

In addition to peace of mind for dietary concerns, University Housing also partners with University Health Services to provide medical care a camp may need, whether it be distributing medications or addressing an injury or illness.

That peace of mind, Seagren explains, goes beyond that of the camper. Camp administrators benefit from arranging programs through a university partner. “The risk management aspect alone, especially for minors, can seem overwhelming. Housing Conference Services staff understands what needs to be done when protecting our campers and influencing the entire camp experience so it goes smoothly, from both the staff and camper perspective.” By employing uniform procedures and regular communication across the University, Conference Services is able to efficiently work with other campus entities. Collectively, our pooled resources provide a solid network and understanding for all programs serving minors on campus.

Working together with University Housing, Chynoweth shares the impact it can have on not only the camper but also the University. “By providing a positive experience, we may be influencing their decision to come to UW-Madison one day. Working together, we get more people excited about coming to our University. And that’s a win for everybody.”