Each summer, students in JFK University's Sport Psychology program have the opportunity to apply the skills they are learning in service to the community, working with incarcerated and underserved youth through the LEAP summer camps.
The Challenge Camp at the Orin Allen Youth Rehabilitation Facility teaches life skills through athletics and changing the life direction of these troubled youth. Over the past two decades, Sport Psychology interns have worked with hundreds of Bay Area incarcerated teens to learn anger management and teamwork skills that they are applying in difficult real life situations
“At the beginning of camp, the teenage boys aren’t very trusting of the JFKU counselors, but they are excited about our program because it breaks up the monotony of their routine,” explains Lauren Brooke, one JFKU student who has witnessed the transformative effects on kids who were falling through life’s cracks. ”Honestly, the Master’s students struggle a bit in the beginning also because neither group knows what to expect from the other,” she comments. “But by the end of the week, the change and the positive effects are incredibly powerful.”
Students interact with the boys through sports activities and teach skills such as relaxation, positive thinking, goal setting, and self-confidence using nontraditional games and group activities.
Students often work with boys from opposing gangs – they won’t look at each other or talk to each other at the beginning of the week, but they have to work together to accomplish tasks and to safely complete a very difficult ropes course on the final day. At the end of the program, the “labels” are removed and new relationships of trust and cooperation are formed.
Brooke says the program has been one of the most formative experiences in her life. “These boys are primarily 15–17 year olds, and the difference LEAP makes is that they realize that there are people who care,” she emphasizes. “They also gain confidence in themselves and others, knowing that they can overcome fear and obstacles in life.”
According to the Orin Allen facility, the boys who have gone through program have a much lower rate of recidivism than those who didn’t.
In addition, this summer, LEAP partnered with the Community Youth Center in Concord to offer a summer soccer camp. Boys and girls ages 13 to 18 had the opportunity to pump up their mental game, get mentally strong for soccer, and work on their soccer skills with soccer drills and scrimmages at this week-long camp. JFK Sport Psychology students worked with the youth to teach them mental skills to enhance their soccer game including:
- How to set effective goals
- Remain focused and cut out distractions
- Use positive self-talk and how to cope with self-defeating thoughts
- Increase self-confidence, use imagery, and more