Written by Hanna Schutte ’11
Summer camps are a great way for junior and senior high school students to spend a few days improving their skills on the basketball court, honing their technique in the pool, or developing their abilities as a public speaker.
Camps such as these are in full swing at Gustavus. One camp, the Sanneh Soccer Camp, held on the Gustavus campus June 13—17, combines athletic development with social awareness and healthy lifestyle programming.
This camp, a part of The Sanneh Foundation, is run by internationally renowned soccer athlete Tony Sanneh. A former member of several Major League Soccer teams, including the Minnesota Thunder and D.C. United, Sanneh now focuses on a variety of community programs as a way to give back.
Sanneh states: “[The camp] is a combination of high-level soccer that is adapted to different kids and their skills levels, as well as several initiatives. I want to help look after the kids and show them that drugs and alcohol can have a serious impact, and let them know that prevention is the best source.”
That’s where the unique aspect of the Sanneh Soccer program comes in. While some camps focus solely on athleticism or skills, this organization goes further. Besides being a week-long program on soccer, there is also focus on nutrition, fitness, and cultural education. In addition, the camp has an emphasis on drug and alcohol education and prevention. At this year’s camp, members of the Drug Enforcement Administration (DEA) flew in a helicopter and landed on the soccer field to educate the young athletes about drug use and abuse and how to avoid it.
Dan Moren, DEA’s Assistant Special Agent in Charge of Minnesota and North Dakota, spoke about the difficult choices students are faced with. “Even if you choose not to do drugs, people around you might, and you need to know the consequences,” he says. “You all have a choice. You have your freedom. If you start taking drugs, that’s when you lose that freedom.”
Moren and his co-workers shared specific, real-life stories of drug enforcement but especially ones relevant to athletics. One such story was the tragic case of basketball player Len Bias, who died from one-time drug use at the beginning of his pro career.
“There are three important factors in life and in sports—passion, commitment, and choices. Two out of three isn’t good enough. To be successful, you have to possess all three,” says Moren.
The Sanneh Foundation uses the power and appeal of soccer to help disadvantaged youth to become positive and productive adults; and unite diverse communities by building cultural capacity and understanding. Sanneh says, “I started the Foundation in 2003 as a way to give back. I had good people help me get through to where I am today, and I felt a social responsibility, through sport, to help others.”
The foundation also has several other programs, including For All Youth, which “works to expand the participation of immigrant youth in youth soccer and build cultural competency in those clubs to ensure successful participation,” and Kick It Back, “a nationwide program dedicated to promoting the need for soccer gear and serving as a vehicle to distribute equipment to youth in need.”
For more information on the many programs operated by The Sanneh Foundation, visit www.thesannehfoundation.org. For more information on other camps held at Gustavus this summer, click here. Gustavus is host to more than 7,000 individual campers throughout the summer.