Community sports: NGA provides a different kind of summer camp
Published 12:00 am Thursday, July 13, 2023
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By Mike London
SALISBURY — Romar Morris and John Knox were responsible for 30 touchdowns apiece for Salisbury High’s 2010 football state champions, so they’ll never be forgotten.
But what they’re doing now with the Next Generation Academy could be more important to the city than their football glory days.
Next Generation Academy builds athletic teams that are enjoying success on a high level, but NGA is about more than football and basketball.
“We’re sports-based, but we go well beyond sports,” said Morris, who was the NCHSAA Male Athlete of the Year for the 2010-11 school year.
Next Generation Academy is holding a five-week camp at Salisbury High this summer.
Seventy youngsters, ages 6 to 14, registered for the camp and 50 to 55 usually attend on a given day.
Registration was stopped at 70 because Morris wasn’t certain how many youths the academy could handle, but things have gone smoothly enough that the goal will be to register 150 campers next summer.
The campers are divided into an older group and a younger one.
No marshmallows are being roasted around a campfire and no ghost stories are being told, but plenty of good things are happening.
“This camp is a summer version of what we do during the school year with Next Generation Academy,” Morris said. “There’s more academics now than athletics. We want to provide a good learning environment this summer. We want to keep on educating. We’d like to help kids retain and use the things they’ve already learned during the summer months. We’ve got them for six hours each day (9 a.m. to 3 p.m.), so we’ve got time to connect with them as individuals. Every kid is different. Every kid is dealing with different things at home. We get to know them. We get to know who they are, and that’s important.”
While the central point for the camp is the Salisbury High media center, campers don’t sit at tables all day.
“We go on field trips,” Morris said. “Most of these kids had never heard of pickleball, but they got to experience that sport. We went to the golf course. The kids get to do a lot of things that are new and different experiences for them.”
SHS principal Marvin Moore was pleased to allow NGA to use Salisbury’s facilities. He said that was a no-brainer.
“A great camp led by some great young men and women,” Moore said via social media. “We are blessed to have them pouring back into the lives of our young people.”
Besides the field trips, campers are provided with breakfast and lunch daily, so corporate partners such as Cheerwine have been critical to the program’s sustainability.
Morris, Knox and Chelsea Morris, Romar’s wife, lead the camp, but assistants also play a vital role.
Morris enlisted members of the Salisbury boys and girls track team to serve as camp counselors.
Salisbury’s girls won the 2A state championship in the 4×400 in the spring. All four of those sprinters are on the summer staff, so no one wants to challenge the NGA team to a footrace.
NGA campers and counselors wear T-shirts with the slogan “Stronger Together” on the back.
“Yes, that’s the motto,” Morris said. “It’s all about working together and doing the right things. There’s a right way to do things and there’s a right way to represent yourself and your school. Athletics are important, but so are academics. Respect is important. Discipline is important. Those are the lessons we try to teach.”
Maybe the boy who will break Knox’s Salisbury school records for career passing yards and total offense is one of the campers.
Or the girl who will follow recent graduate Kyla Bryant and lead the Salisbury basketball team to another state championship
Morris is only 30, but it’s a seasoned 30.
Professional football gave him a chance to score touchdowns and experience life in western Canada, just as the sport gave Knox a chance to see what life is like in Sweden. Knox was a pro quarterback in Europe.
“Athletics took John and I to college and to a lot of different places,” Morris said. “We’ve got life experiences we can share and we want to use our knowledge to help the kids. This camp is a good thing, but it’s only a start. The goal is to have more business partners and more campers next summer. We’re in this for the long run.”