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Five Tips For Selecting A Summer Sports Camp

Updated on July 11, 2012
A good camp will help to refine existing skills and teach new ones
A good camp will help to refine existing skills and teach new ones

The end of the school year brings with it a variety of sports camps, typically sponsored by local high schools and athletic associations. In our area, two of the local high schools sponsor football, basketball and baseball camps. Each lasts four days, for about 3 hours each day. While participants may not have their skills tuned enough to become professional athletes, they are sure to come away with tips and refined abilities that will help them grow in their sport. Plus, the camps are a guaranteed three hour block of exercise time, and time that many participants will spend with their friends. (When my son walked in to the dugout on the first day of baseball camp, it was like Norm walking in to Cheers.) The camps have a value that goes beyond the sport.

How do you choose a camp and be confident that it is the best opportunity for your young athlete? Before evaluating the camps, you have to determine what you want your young athlete to come away with. If you are just looking for random activity, then you don't really have to do much research. If you are looking to help them develop skills in their chosen sport, you should take a good long look at how the camps are operated, who runs them and what they teach. Here are five tips to help you get started.

Which type of sports camp will your athlete attend?

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  1. Look At The History: Does the camp have a good record? How long has it been around? Have there ever been significant problems? Most camps will tell you how long they have been around. If it is a school sponsored camp, you can check with the athletic director at the school for information on the camp's history. A non-confrontational approach to the 'interview" of the athletic director for the school or school district will yield results and likely the answers you are looking for. For privately operated camps, look up the company information with the BBB. You can also check with the local police and the city to see if there have been any problems or complaints.
  2. Check the Coach's References: The "head coach" at a sports camp will almost always tell you his record and accomplishments. Coaches want you to know that they played in college or professionally. They want you to know how many district or state championships they have won. They need to impress you and get you to come to their camp by showing off the trophy case. There is nothing wrong with that. In fact, it makes your job easier. You get an instant feel for their experience, and you will likely get honest feedback from others whom you ask about the coach. If the coach does not freely reveal his record, which amounts to his resume, this may be cause for concern or at least prompt you to further investigate.
  3. Review The Staff: Who else will be involved in the camp? For camps offered through a local school, the ideal would be having the entire coaching staff on hand for the camp. Most high school run camps include current and former players - usually seniors and recently graduated college players. You would want to avoid a camp that featured only one coach and the freshman team, there's no real value in that and you may find that it is nothing more than a baby-sitting activity. You'll want a camp that offers the experience of the coaching staff and their best players, past and present. For example, one of the local baseball camps features a former MLB player and several current college players (who play for big-name Texas schools no less.)
  4. Compare Itinerary or Curriculum: What are we going to do today? No camp will turn your young athlete in to a five tool player, but a good camp will help refine at least a few of the skills necessary to play the sport. When inquiring about the camp, ask about specific drills and lessons that are taught and which skills are focused on. Camps for younger players often use games to teach basic skills. See what each camp offers and select the one that will be most beneficial for your athlete.
  5. Gather Feedback: The best analysis of a camp comes from participants and parents. Parents especially will be willing to provide feedback, as the sports camps aren't free, and anything that requires spending money these days warrants review. You will honest feedback from the young participants and interpreted feedback from parents. (When Johnny says he had a great time, it really means that he got to pitch a lot, and that's what he loves to do.) You'll want to weigh the feedback against what you have discovered through review of the coach and staff. I know a few parents won't send their kids to a particular camp in town because they believe it is run solely by high school athletes. It doesn't take much to discover that's not the case, so be sure to take both positive and negative feedback with a grain of salt.

Remember, in the end, it's all about having fun.
Remember, in the end, it's all about having fun.

Benefits

A summer sports camp can benefit young athletes on many levels. Athletes learn new skills, refine existing skills, get solid exercise and spend time with their friends having fun. And really, it is all about having fun. The experience of the staff, the turnout of participants, the safety record and feedback from participants are all key factors in determining which camp to select. Cost, of course, can be a factor as well, so make sure you are getting the most bang for your buck. It is baseball camp week in our town and two of the local high schools are offerings camps. Both are equal in overall quality and are a match for cost. The determining factor for us when it came to deciding which camp to attend was location, we live right by one of the two schools. However you look at it, if you do your homework, you'll enroll your young athlete in a camp that will benefit them long after it is over.

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