K-State football' B.J. Finney, Cody Whitehair, Curry Sexton and Laton Dowling team up with girls from Horace J. Good Middle School at the Finney County Catbakcers' Kids Clinic on May 20, 2014. (Kelly McHugh/K-State Athletics)
May 21, 2014
By Kelly McHugh
GARDEN CITY, Kansas - Have you ever wondered what it would be like to shoot three pointers with Will Spradling? Or how about take on B.J. Finney on the football field?
Well, kids all over Kansas are having the opportunity to do just that as the Catbacker Tour is hosting a handful of Kids Funzones throughout the summer.
Beginning Monday in Dodge City, the Catbacker Tour hosted its first-ever Kids Funzone, and children of all ages had the opportunity to meet and compete with the student-athletes traveling on the Western Swing.
"It was a fun time having these kids come out and play with us," said men's basketball junior-to-be D.J. Johnson. "We showed them some basketball skills on the court. We ran around a little bit, and it looked like they really enjoyed themselves. Everyone had a good time."
Along with Johnson, K-State student-athletes traveling on this year's Western Swing and working in these kids clinics are Johnson's teammate Spradling, Finney, Curry Sexton, Laton Dowling and Cody Whitehair from the football team and equestrian's Kara Guy and Jesse Johnson.
Each event is put on by its respective Catbackers Club, so each one is a little different. However, they have been a hit for both children and their K-State loving parents over the first two days.
"The kids are really excited to have everyone here, and they especially love seeing Willie Wildcat," said Dodge City's Jennifer Hiemstra as she watched her kids shoot hoops with the Wildcats at the Dodge City YMCA. "I really like that they involved the little ones because they really enjoy that. It's just fabulous, and we'll make sure to get the word out about it even more next year."
Nearly 30 kids showed up to play at the Dodge City YMCA on Monday afternoon, and each left a bigger K-State fan than when they arrived.
Continuing the tour, K-State Athletics traveled to Garden City yesterday afternoon where it hosted its second Kids Funzone at Horace J. Good Middle School. Even bigger than the first clinic, about 120 students ranging from fifth to eighth grade showed up to play.
"We're honored to host K-State," said Ryan Meng, the volunteer with the Finney County Catbackers Club who set up this year's Garden City Kids Clinic. "We are huge K-State fans out here, so to have this opportunity to have the Wildcats here not only for us as fans, but to expose K-State to our kids, it's just awesome."
At the middle school, the football players and the basketball players split up for football games outside and basketball games inside. While Sexton and Whitehair coached against Finney and Dowling on the football field, Spradling and Johnson hooped it up inside.
"I saw a lot of little kids shooting the ball really well," said Johnson laughing as the kids ran by him. "They were great, the boys and girls. One of the kids really stood out to me. He's 6- 5, seventh grade, he's a nice kid, really skilled at basketball."
For the younger kids in Garden City who may have been a little too small to compete on the football field, equestrian's Johnson and Guy had games planned for them.
"It has been fantastic; I've enjoyed every minute of it," said Johnson about the clinics. "Since equestrian can't really be sport specific at these clinics, we've found other games to play with the kids. We played HORSE, we played duck, duck, goose - that was a big hit because Willie Wildcat played. It has been so much fun. I'm glad we got to come."
Johnson also said that she enjoyed having the opportunity to share about the K-State equestrian team with these little Wildcat fans.
Each child left the event with autographs from the K-State student-athletes and a K-State lanyard to wear around school.
"It was a lot of fun. My team won when we played football against the football players," said sixth grader Devin Doll, whose favorite K-State football player is Tyler Lockett and favorite basketball player is Marcus Foster. "I've been to a lot of games out there and they're very fun."
Tomorrow afternoon, K-State Athletics will continue the Western Swing in Colby, Kansas, and host the Kids Funzone beginning at 3:30 p.m., at Colby's elementary school.
To find out more about this year's Catbacker Kids Funzones, contact a Catbackers Club near you. For more on this year's Catbacker Tour, click here.
Click here for photos from the Dodge City Catbackers event
Click here for photos from the Garden City Catbackers event
K-State Equestrian's Cara Guy plays football with children at the Dodge City YMCA during the Dodge City Catbakcers' Kids Clinic (Courtesy photo)
Children shoot hoops with K-State student-athletes at the Dodge City Catbackers' Kids Clinics on May 19, 2014 (Courtesy photo)