Review of Killie Kids Summer Camp 2023

Written by Cameron Murray, Glasgow Caledonian University.

The Killie Kids Summer Camp of 2023 was an experience to remember for over 300 local children, the coaches and volunteers involved.

The purpose of The Killie Community is to “use football as a force for good to support all within our community”. The football-themed summer camps aim to encourage children to take up healthy outdoor activities and sports in a fun, safe and welcoming environment at Kilmarnock Football Club’s landmark stadium. This year, the activities included football, games with inflatables, multisports, first aid training, nutritious eating and life-enhancing learning experiences. The children also had the chance to meet new friends, learn, play on the pitch and enjoy a summer full of joy at Rugby Park.

During week four of the 2023 Killie Kids Summer Camp, I had the pleasure to speak to Ciara and Lewis, who work as coaches and leaders for The Killie Community. They both highlighted the incredible success of the summer camps and shared their highlights of this year. Ciara McAllister, aged 22, a new addition for the Killie Community team, stated: “You have the kids for a whole week; it is fantastic to see their personal growth and confidence build, seeing them have fun, meet new friends, be themselves and get to meet the players. They even take pictures with the players and get their signatures. That was one of my highlights this year”.

Lewis Milligan, aged 17, another new coach for the Killie Community, added: “I’d say seeing all the smiles on the kid’s faces at the stadium that they all love and getting to see them play football. Kids from different ages and backgrounds all coming together”.

I asked Lewis and Ciara to share their most rewarding coaching experience with the youth at the 2023 summer camp. Lewis stated: “One part would be seeing the kids having free lunches as some kids do not get lunches daily. We guarantee that the youngsters can get a nutritious meal.” Lewis also highlighted the immeasurable joy at the 2023 Killie Kids summer camp, adding: “We see all the kids going home smiling. This is rewarding as a coach to know that we are providing something they enjoy”.

Ciara shared her perspective, stating: “For me, it must be the free lunches, as with many kids you don’t know what is going on at home. You are also unaware of their background, and we are providing them with a free lunch that can make all the difference”. This shows that family values are at the heart of The Killie Community and, therefore, Kilmarnock Football Club.

A significant part of the Killie Community’s ambition for the Killie Kids Summer Camp is to promote active lifestyles and encourage youngsters to exercise. I asked two senior staff members, Mairi Mackenzie (Community Support Officer) and Daryl Knapp (Programmes Manager), how events like this help children to develop active lifestyles and participate in sports. Daryl stated: “To have the opportunity to play at a premiership stadium is massive for the kids – creating new friendships and social relationships. Some youngsters would be unable to meet each other because they come from different backgrounds and ages. It can give them an initial stepping stone into a life full of activity”.

Mairi added: “The children are active through various activities, and they receive a nutritious player’s lunch which promotes good, healthy lifestyles”. Mairi also had positive answers about how this initiative creates younger supporters, adding: “The summer camp encourages them to become the next generation of Killie fans”.

When speaking to the staff, I learned that Lewis is also an avid supporter of Kilmarnock Football Club himself. There may be no better person to ask how the Killie Kids summer camp encourages youngsters to support Killie. Therefore, Lewis was more than happy to share his views, adding: “Our summer camps encourage kids to get involved with Killie. They are in the stadium every day, the same place where the first team and women’s team are. They get a feel for what it is like to be in the footballer’s shoes. Meeting players brings younger fans closer to the club and creates excitement. It’s a great opportunity to meet with the characters behind the scenes”.

It was also both a pleasure and a privilege to have the opportunity to speak with Emmanuel Ayobami, here from Ukraine, who is now working as the Killie Community’s Community Football Officer. Emmanuel shared his positive feedback and appreciation for the summer camps led by the Killie Community: “The summer camp has been great, and the coaches have been doing great things, taking good care of the children. The kids and the parents are all loving it”. This shows that Kilmarnock Football Club is family-centred with no barriers to age, background or ability – we are a club that cares for all.