Iowa State University

Inside Iowa State
August 7, 1998

Her goal: Happy campers

by Skip Derra

Nearly every summer weekend is full for Marsha Wissink, and it's been this way for three years running. On weekends, Wissink is either checking in participants at Iowa State's sports camps or checking out the action at the camps.

She also is passing out evaluations, tending to administrative details and making sure campers have everything they brought when it's time to go home. For Wissink, Iowa State's first athletic camp coordinator, summertime is busy time as nearly 5,000 kids, along with parents and coaches, come to campus to learn how to play.

Wissink organizes and administers the camps for 11 sports, ranging from basketball to cross country. This year more than 40 camps and clinics will be held, most of them during the summer. With a camp staff that can number as many as 38 people including counselors and trainers, Wissink has her hands full making sure all the details of the camps are ironed out and that they run smoothly.

"It's important to see that the participants are having fun, but learning something too," Wissink said.

The pace at times can be maddening. During a peak period this past June, Wissink had five camps in session at one time. Then the flood rains came.

"The golfers went to Longview Golf Center, and we managed to fit the other four camps (basketball, football, soccer and softball) into the Rec Center," Wissink said.

Three years ago, ISU's athletic department began a move toward centrally organized and university- sponsored camps as a way to make them more efficient and effective. It's a trend among many universities, Wissink said.

When she started working as camp coordinator, Wissink was pretty much on her own to do the marketing, budgeting, organizing and associated paper work.

Taking over administrative duties from the coaches may have been a bit like taking the reins of a runaway stage coach -- you knew the direction you were headed, but you questioned if you'd survive the ride. One bump in the road was selling the coaches on the virtues of handing over the administrative reins of their camps.

"We had a varied response from the coaches," Wissink recalled. "The more established camps were the most challenging. The coaches have their ways of doing things and if the camp was successful, they wondered, why change it."

But the benefits of centrally run camps helped Wissink sway even some of the more reluctant coaches. Besides organization and administration, Wissink can provide greater marketing opportunities for the camps, make sure the camps adhere to NCAA guidelines, take the burden of insurance off the coach's shoulders and negotiate better rates for such things as facilities, housing and food for the athletes.

"We do all of the administration and logistics, so the coach can come in and focus on directing the activity and give instruction," Wissink said.

Wissink holds evaluation meetings with each coach to see what worked and what didn't in each year's camps. She also brings all of the coaches together monthly to address issues and brainstorm on what can be done to improve the camp experience.

Wissink is sure that with teamwork of the coaches, better camps will result, which will reflect well on the university.

"If we give the kids a good experience at ISU during a sport camp, it can help the university to recruit them later on," Wissink said.

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