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From Classroom to Coach:EPS Teachers Lead Edina Summer Sports Camps

Girls basketball camp taking a break on the gym floor.

June brings a break from the classroom, but many Edina teachers stay connected to Edina student-athletes as committed coaches throughout the summer. Whether they are on the gym mat or at a nearby court, these coaches will lead, inspire and teach summer sports camps --including tennis, basketball, volleyball and wrestling--with the same excellence, enthusiasm and energy they use in the classroom. These summer sports camps, organized through Edina Community Education, provide opportunities for dynamic connections, and Edina student athletes reap the benefits.


Girls’ Basketball with Coach Nilsen

Coach Matt Nilsen is the head coach of the Edina Girls Varsity Basketball team and a physical and health education teacher at Edina High School. Coach Nilsen’s dedication to the sport of basketball is matched with his commitment to the Edina Hornets, where he has been coaching for more than twenty years.

“As most coaches will tell you, the best part is the relationships you build with the players and their families. Watching the kids grow and helping their game develop is what keeps you coming back,” says Coach Nilsen. “Being able to share a passion with others who want to learn is very rewarding. And there is nothing better than getting Christmas cards, wedding invitations, and birth announcements from former players.”

Back again this summer, Coach Nilsen will lead his popular Edina Community Education basketball sport camps for more than 100 student athletes.  

“From a basketball standpoint, summer is the time for players to develop their game from 3rd graders to high schoolers,” he says. “At our camps and open gyms, we can give more focus on the individual and less on the team aspect.  It takes discipline, sacrifice, and dedication to train on a consistent basis and to lay a foundation to build on. We promote the most basic fundamentals and encourage the players to continue practicing on their own.”


Volleyball with Coach Stu

For teachers like Mary Stucynski, who teaches social studies at Edina High School and is the head the interim girls volleyball coach, it is as much about the opportunity to teach kids outside the classroom in different settings and age groups as it is about learning to play a sport.

“Summer camps don't just teach the kids about one specific sport or activity, it helps them develop skills for life,” says Coach Stu. “The camp experience gives players the opportunities to develop teamwork, leadership, hard work, in-person communication, persistence and consideration. I love how our camps keep kids active and social at the same time.”

Coach Stu builds her volleyball summer camps with the same mindset she takes to her classroom. “I want to build a player's confidence with the gradual release of responsibility. Students and athletes produce the best results when they feel like they are in a safe environment to try new things and make mistakes,” she says. “Everyone at a camp is learning, no matter what experience or skill level. Everyone has something they can learn and improve on. Each lesson builds up to that.”


Tennis and Basketball with Coach Buck

Jon Buckley, better known as Coach ‘Buck’, is a Public Speaking and U.S. Literature teacher at Edina High School, and has been directing both summer sports camps for twenty-five years.

“I believe one of the most important parts to successful experiences in the classroom and on the court is to create and develop a positive and inclusive Edina community,” says Buckley. “Campers become an integral part of Edina and the positive identity they gain from being a part of our program contributes to their experience here.”  

Coach Buck sees first-hand the wide range of benefits made through summer sports camps, like the Hornet Tennis Camp he runs each summer.

“Our EHS student-athletes serve as role models for younger players. In fact, many of our coaches once participated in Hornet Tennis Camp or Hornet HOT SHOTS as a camper,” he says. “This connection is essential so we can build and develop fundamental skills through the camp experience.”


Wrestling with Coach Burhans

Josh Burhans, a physical education and health teacher with Edina Public Schools and head Edina wrestling coach, understands how impactful the summer wrestling camp can be for for student athletes.

“I get to work with a group of student athletes over many years and help them build skills, experiences, and a work ethic that will allow them to be successful once they leave our program,” says Coach Burhans. “I feel this is the most important thing we can give our student athletes -- the mindset and confidence to tackle anything they choose to. It is rewarding watching kids work toward their goals and to assist in that process.”

Burhan also understands the importance of a strong rapport with his student athletes. “A lot of what goes into being an effective teacher or coach is building positive relationships,” he says. “Making those connections and building rapport with the athletes and students is an important piece of coaching.”

These awesome Edina Public School teacher-coaches look forward to firing up new and returning summer campers every year.  “All of our camps are designed to teach valuable skills,” says Coach Buck. “But just as important, we work hard to help kids feel great about who they are while having lots of fun.”

For more information and to learn about all of the youth summer sport camps offered through Edina Community Ed, click here.