How competitive do you want the camp to be?
- Beginner. If your child enjoys a variety of activities, look for a recreational or beginner camp that has a variety of sports and emphasizes learning the basics in a fun and positive environment. You will probably find these type of camps at a local school or recreational facility.
- Intermediate. If your young athlete has developed a passion for a single sport they are probably ready to attend an intermediate or advanced camp where they can hone their skills, increase their knowledge, and feed their passion. I found these type of camps at local high schools or colleges.
- Elite. Not for young children! But if your high school athlete has his sights on playing for college there are two camps to consider: recruiting camps–also called elite training camps–offer some instruction, but mostly offer a place for players to show their skills in a game setting. At these camps, they will be seen by college coaches. The second type of camp is a college specific camp. Many colleges offer their own camps and this is a good way to be seen by their coaches.
What are the coaches like?
Kids’ sports camps offer a variety of coaches, from dads who are just helping out to experienced skill teachers. If your child is just going to camp to have fun, then serious trained coaches are probably not a top priority for you. But if you want your child to really learn the skills, then attending a camp that has experienced instructors that actually know what they’re doing is important.
When you investigate the camp, ask how they choose their coaches and what kind of experience they have. As my kids got older, I always tried to choose sports camps with coaches or programs that had a reputation for good skill training, and one that provided feedback and personalized attention for my child.
What are the camps’ values?
Do you want a camp that is just for fun? If so, that’s perfectly fine. Or do you want a camp that has a deeper purpose, such as instilling a good work ethic, good sportsmanship and teamwork?
My kids attended several NBC basketball and volleyball camps and I always loved the way those camps stressed having a positive mental attitude, and working hard. I knew my children were getting a deeper benefit than just entertainment or even just skills. If you can, look for a camp that stresses values that will make your athletes winners not just in the game, but in life.
How does the camp rate in safety?
Look for an experienced sports camp, run by experienced professionals. Ask if they have a fully trained pro on staff to treat minor injuries and someone who recognizes signs of a concussion.
What is the camper/adult ratio? How do they keep track of the campers? When the kids have free time, what kind of supervision is there?
Kids’ health and safety should always be top priority.
Is the camp fun?
Even camps that challenge kids and teach skills can provide some fun too. In fact, why not combine the two? A sports camp should be fun, exciting, and so worthwhile and enjoyable that it stands out as a favorite life experience for years to come.
A hard-working camp doesn’t have to be void of memorable fun. When my son went to his team’s football camp in high school, he bemoaned the long days and hard work, but will never forget the team bonding and the fun memories he built with his teammates. Just because your kids work hard doesn’t mean they won’t have fun.