Dont just call it asports camp.

With its proven history of successes in both physical fitness and character development for impressionable youngsters, it can be said that the yearly National Youth Sports Program at West Virginia University truly is in a league of its own.

For 17 years, the NYSP has been providing an anchor of summertime support for disadvantaged youth from Monongalia County.

The 18 th edition of the camp will be June 16-July 22 in the WVU Shell Building and Coliseum. The NYSP is open to youth ages 10-16, and participation is free. Daily sessions at those venues will be from 9 a.m. until noon, when lunch is served.

Look for fun activities like swimming and softball layered with academic side trips touching on everything from the seriousness of staying focused in the classroom to why SAT scores really do matter.

Were not just a �€~sports camp,said WVU s Bruce Wilmoth, a professor in the School of Physical Education who has directed the NYSP gatherings here since the beginning.

I mean, were talking about physical fitness and good sportsmanship,he said,but were also talking about good study habits and self-esteem, and not falling into the traps of drugs and alcohol.

Days will be full during the NYSP s run, he said, with two hours of physical activity daily teamed up with 15 hoursworth of drug and alcohol awareness education and 7 and-a-half hours of academic counseling and health and nutrition counseling.

A lot of our participants might not have the chance to in such an environment otherwise,Wilmoth said.

Around 220 youngsters are expected to attend this year, Wilmoth said. Thats down from the all-time record of 350 a few years back, he said, but its also consistent.

Theres almost always a good turnout,Wilmoth said.We always seem to manage 200-plus, regardless.

A free physical exam for participants will be from 9 a.m.-noon June 16 in the Shell Building, Wilmoth said.

Those wishing to register early can do so from 7-9 p.m. June 9 at the Coliseum Gold Gate.

The Indianapolis-based NYSP was founded in 1968 and has chapters nationwide including four in West Virginia at Bluefield State College, West Virginia State University, Marshall University and WVU .

Its just a rewarding experience,Wilmoth said.And a few of our past participants have grown up to become WVU students who come back to help with NYSP . Thats always nice to see.