Kansas City Athlete Training’s 20th annual football camp faces field of issues

Corbin Smith
Editorial Assistant


Through the cone of a megaphone, Missouri Wolverines Youth Football Director of Athletics Jim Tuso could be heard from one end zone to the other on a humid late spring evening as 250 children aged five to 14 occupied the lines on the football field at Heim Electric Park at the foot of Chestnut Avenue in the East Bottoms.


Kansas City Athlete Training hosted its 20th annual Kansas City Youth Football Camp June 14 through 17. The camp has jumped from location to location over the 20 years of its existence. It was first held at William Jewell College before moving to Winnetonka High School in 2012 and eventually Park Hill High School in 2017. In 2018, the camp returned to William Jewell until they secured their current location at 735 N. Chestnut Ave.


“This has been the best move because we’re able to provide for kids all over Kansas City,” Tuso said. “We have kids from Higginsville, Overland Park, Grandview, St. Joseph, Cameron, Sedalia — our hashtag is ‘We Train KC.’ This has by far been the best location with the indoor and outdoor dirt. It’s like a college facility. There’s really nothing like it in the Kansas City metro.”


Having grown up near the intersection of Norton Avenue and Independence Avenue, Tuso happily represents Northeast Kansas City. Part of the reason why he wanted to host the camp at Heim Electric Park is so that it would be easier to access for people who might not be able to drive as far north as William Jewell in Liberty, Missouri.


“I just try to give kids in this neighborhood an affordable place to play and opportunities that I never had,” Tuso said. “I’m trying to give something that’s affordable and located in the heart of the city, instead of way out in a suburb. There’s plenty of places in the suburbs, but say if you live in Grandview, you’re not going to go to a place up north. If you live up north, you don’t want to go to a place way out south. This is 20 minutes from any part of the city.”


The youth football camp cost $75 for early registration and $100 for on-site registration, a price Tuso said is reasonable for four days of speed and agility training. At this camp, young athletes were exposed to workouts similar to NFL combines and regular high-level practices.


Athletes were able to experience laser-timed 40-yard dashes, learn the fundamentals of football and compete against athletes who share the same age and size as them.


Despite the unwavering appreciation for the new facility, Tuso had some concerns he needed to air. One of which being the outdoor football field’s condition.


From the top of the hill that walls in the east side of the park, tire-size trails can be seen carved into the field. These marks come from vehicles driving on the field in the middle of the night and spinning out. The building security cameras have caught vehicles doing this and Tuso has uploaded it to his YouTube channel.


“We’ve had meetings talking about the need of putting a perimeter around — especially the football field — and we just haven’t had any luck doing that,” Tuso said.


In the three years that Tuso said his organization has been down at the park, he’s been trying to fix the vandalism problem. He’s frustrated with how little progress has been made because he said he has reached out to Kansas City Parks and Recreation, but has been given excuses as to why nothing can be done.


With the help of Kansas City Athlete Training’s sponsors, he is able to mow the field, seed it and fill the ruts with sand so their athletes can continue training without an increased fear of injury. He said the only way he knows how to get help at this point is by contacting local media outlets.


“We’ve had the parks director down here and the second in command down here,” Tuso said. “Each time I call Parks trying to get help down here, we’ve not been able to get any help to even get the ruts filled in. So that’s been one of our biggest challenges.”


Tuso said he thinks people are vandalizing the park just to get him and his staff away from the area. He understands that this part of town doesn’t make the parents of his athletes feel the safest, but by putting lights up and having a crowd there, he hopes they’ll feel a little better.


Although Tuso would like to have the park better protected, he doesn’t see the camp changing locations any time soon. He just hopes that somebody will step in and give him a hand in bettering the lives and safety of children.

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