For those still in grade school, this time of year brings with it the anticipation of quieter, less structured days. Getting to sleep in late, freedom from the burden of deadlines. Hanging by the pool with friends. For the serious athlete, summer is anything but the lazy, hazy, crazy days. Depending upon the age, summertime involves clinics through the local high school or recreation department. Many evenings are spent in competition inside a hot, steamy gym or at a scorching field. The summer months can also mean it’s time for sports camp.
If you son or daughter is an athlete, there is likely a sports camp designed for him or her. Sports camps are offered in just about every sport imaginable these days. Many in their marketing slogans promise to help take players to “the next level”, whatever that may look like. Camps can range from costly overnight adventures, often held at colleges or universities, to more affordable day programs. So to steal a phrase from Maine comedian Bob Marley, what are some things to consider if and when you send your son or daughter upta sports camp? Is the investment worthwhile in the first place?
Before shelling out big bucks to send your child to camp, first ask yourself, what do they want most from the experience? Are they looking primarily for a strong social experience or are they serious about getting better as a player? Find out who is doing most of the instructing. While some camps tout being led by top-level coaches, often the majority of instruction will be done by players within the college program. While they may be excellent players, they may not have experience teaching the game to younger players. If most of the drills and contests are conducted by players, how involved is the director in overseeing instruction?
What is the typical level of talent at the camp? If your son or daughter is a beginner in their sport, they may be overwhelmed if the vast majority of campers are more advanced or experienced. The converse is also true. Your young athlete should be adequately challenged with an appropriate level of competition during the week.
The ideal sports camp experience should have a healthy balance of sound fundamentals instruction, skills contests, games, and a little bit of down time mixed in. It also may be wise to search out those camps which focus on a particular aspect of a sport. If you are paying money for camp, ideally it will provide an experience the athlete cannot get elsewhere. For instance, in basketball there are camps which specialize in post play and developing point guards. Need to work on your shot? Look for a camp which is concentrated on shooting.
Most local high schools and recreation departments offer programs which can provide the same skill development as many camps at a greatly reduced cost. While attending camp can be a way to improve one’s game, it is no substitute for consistent practice. As you navigate the options for this summer those are just a few things to consider before spending your hard earned dollars for camp.