OLATHE, Kan. -- 61 metro area boys just wrapped up a summer-long athletic camp in Olathe to improve themselves for upcoming school and community sports. That, in itself, isn't unusual but the person coaching them and running the camp sure is. He's a teenager, our Fox 4 Young Achiever of the Week, who just graduated from high school.
"It really blows my mind," says Lars Hanson after a morning session of his summer sports camp. "After five years of running this camp, I still can't quite grasp that so many parents would trust their kids with me." But trust him they do, more and more every summer, and during the school year, too. And for good reason.
"They just see my heart and my passion for coaching," says Lars. Lars is the camp director and coach and he knows what he's doing. And countless parents have seen the results.
"After my 7th grade year I started coaching my little brother and he started getting faster and then other parents were like, 'how is he getting so fast?', because he wasn't fast before," says Lars. That's how it started and Lars kept getting more skilled and knowledgeable and effective. In his annual summer sports camp, Ignite Your Game, Lars trains grade school and middle school kids in speed, power and agility to make them better athletes. But he goes beyond that, to the core of how champions are made.
"The biggest thing I focus on is self-discipline and work ethic and trying to teach lessons I've learned through sports," says Lars. "I'm not the best athlete but I like to think these kids will see me as a hard worker and somebody who can master technique and who will try repeatedly to improve with the skills I've been given."
"He's a better coach at 18 than most adult coaches will ever be," says Jacob Gunn. Gunn is an athletics coach, too, at Olathe East High School. Lars just graduated from their in May. Gunn has known Lars since he coached Lars in track in 7th grade.
"He's like a magnet," says Gunn. "Everyone flocks to him. It speaks to his maturity." That's why Gunn sought out Lars to organize and lead the Fellowship of Christian Athletes club at Olathe East High when the FAC came calling to start a chapter there.
"He's just a natural leader and has all the qualities to bring kids to him," says Gunn. "You can see it in little kids, peers, older kids. They're all drawn to him." Lars' own life as an athlete hasn't been all victories and successes. Far from it. He's had some big setbacks and disappointments, like getting cut from teams and fighting injuries. But Lars used those misfortunes and difficulties as learning tools and motivation to improve himself -- in body and mind and spirit.
"Really, all the setbacks I've had have led to something I've now applied daily now," says Lars. "The coaching. The work ethic. The rest. All those things I've realized are super important to being successful, not only as a coach or as an athlete but as a person." Lessons he'll keep passing on -- year after year.
Lars is also a 2012 Coca-Cola Scholar, honored by the giant soft-drink company for all of his school and community achievements and awarded a $10,000 college scholarship. Lars heads to Kansas State University next week to begin coursework toward his goal of becoming a big time college basketball coach.
Fox 4 News is Working 4 You to spotlight outstanding young people and their positive accomplishments. In our weekly report called Reaching 4 Excellence we meet young achievers in subjects like academics, the arts, leadership, community service, volunteerism, career exploration, overcoming obstacles and heroism. Watch for Reaching 4 Excellence every Monday on Fox 4 News at 8 a.m., every Wednesday on Fox 4 News at 9 p.m. and every Thursday on Fox 4 News at 5 p.m.