The term sports camps conjures many images, from splashing around in the YMCA pool to running soccer drills under the mid-summer heat. These days, there are so many camps to choose from, it is sometimes confusing when you are trying to pick the right one. Follow these guidelines for assessing an athlete's age, ability and skill, and choosing the camp that best suits their needs.
If the athlete enjoys a variety of activities, look for a recreational or beginner camp that covers a number of sports, and emphasizes learning the basics in a fun and positive environment. These camps are often held at a local school or recreation facility.
Research the camps in your area and talk to people that have gone to those camps. Contact the coaches to find out what kind of environment the camp has and what their goals and priorities are for the session.
Grant Serafy, head soccer coach at Mercer University says that you should, "See if the staff has the credentials to match the experience the athlete wants. Who makes up the staff is one of the most important elements of a good camp."
Above all, decide what kind of experience the athlete wants to have. Is it more important that they go to the same camp as their best friend, or that they go to the camp with the best coaching staff?
Don't forget adventure or extreme sports camps. These offer a new twist on the traditional camp experience, by letting kids break away from the norm and learn to surf, skateboard, ride BMX, mountain bike, and more. Camps aren't just about developing athletic skills. They are a place for kids to develop valuable social and life skills too.
If the 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. But don't rely on the camps you are already familiar with.
Jillian Albee of Adrenaline Lacrosse says, "Different camps offer different focus, skills, coaches, people, location, facilities, program structure and expectations. The list goes on and on."
If your son or daughter is interested in playing sports in college, look into camps at local and regional colleges. This will give the athlete exposure to the elite camp environment.
No matter which level of camp you choose, there may be varying skill groups within that camp. Participants may be put in the lower group because of their age, despite having the experience of kids in the upper levels. If you feel the athlete would benefit more from a different level, don't be afraid to ask if they can be moved up or down.