Student-athletes returned to the campus of Madison Southern High School this week.

They weren't just there to train, though.

The school launched its first-ever Camp S.O.A.R. on Monday.

The goal of the event is to not only help the athletes get back in shape after being isolated during the COVID-19 lockdown, but also teach them valuable life lessons.

"Our goal is to educate as many kids as we can about being a better citizen and a better part of the world around us," Southern athletic director Jay Simmons said.

S.O.A.R. stands for safe, organized, accountable and respectful and the camp is being held under the current guidelines set forth by the Kentucky High School Athletic Association.

Only 60 student athletes are allowed on campus at a time and only 10 can be together in a group, or pod. Campers have split their time between conditioning exercises on the football field and the classroom, where they get life skills instruction from coaches.

Almost 200 athletes have taken part in the event this week.

"We threw this together in about six days," Southern strength and conditioning coach Corey Chapman said. "(Boys basketball coach) Austin (Newton) and (football coach) Jon (Clark) have been really diligent about it. All the coaches have been involved and have been really supportive. Everyone is seeing how valuable this can be for us going forward."

The on-field workouts have mostly focused on cardio and getting the athletes back in shape after months of no organized activities.

"We just haven't had contact with them for so long," Chapman said. "We knew it was going to be a steep climb to get them back to playing shape. We are just bringing them along slowly."

Athletes from almost every sport at the school have taken part in workouts together -- including boys and girls basketball, boys and girls soccer, volleyball, football, baseball and softball.

That mix of students from different backgrounds has made the exercise portion of the camp more fun.

"They are building a little competitiveness," Chapman said with a laugh.

In the classroom, the focus changes every day.

Student-athletes have taken part in classes on social media, health, racism/stereotypes and other topics. The overall goal is to build a championship culture and have a positive impact on the kids.

"We are trying to be a guiding light," Chapman said.

Workouts/classes were held on Monday, Tuesday and Thursday in 30-45 minute sessions in the morning and afternoons.

The camp is scheduled for the same times/dates next week.

On July 1, the KHSAA is set to announce new guidelines for athletic programs moving forward.

For now, though, Camp S.O.A.R. has taken a big step toward getting the student-athletes at Southern ready to get back on the field.

"It's been a team effort," Southern girls soccer coach Katie Cress said.

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