Summer sports or recreation camps can be a great way to keep kids busy, but even more important is the fact that they are really beneficial. And we are lucky to have so many to choose from. So, what should you look for in a camp and what should you expect to get out of it?
Here in the Athens area, there is probably no better family to help us understand the ins and outs of sports and recreation camps than Craig and Kelly White and their three kids. Craig is an associate athletic director at UGA who has also coached youth sports teams and, along with his wife, Kelly, they have sent their kids – Allie, Connor and Sidney – to just about every type of sports camp you can imagine: local recreation, high school and college camps for soccer, football, baseball, basketball, tennis, volleyball and cheerleading.
We sat down with Craig, Kelley and Connor to get their insights and suggestions about sports camps from the viewpoints of a coach, parent and young athlete.
As a coach, Craig says the primary benefit of sports camps is “just playing and doing that sport. The more you play and the more repetitions you get, the better you will be. It also exposes you to new teachings and techniques and a way to improve yourself.” He also feels that you should expect to get “quality time working in that sport … time spent training with new techniques from an experienced staff.” There is also the opportunity to take that training and those new techniques that you have learned and apply them in a competitive environment.
He suggests taking a close look at the camp schedule and asking questions such as the following:
- What do they do if it is raining or dangerously hot outside?
- Do campers receive individual instruction as well as general/group instruction?
- Are there mechanisms in place for engaging my child so he/she is paying attention, listening, asking questions?
- If my children attend a college-based camp, will they have the opportunity to meet athletes and coaches from that institution?
- What are the objectives of the camp? Do you seek to increase skills in a particular sport? Increase overall fitness? Teach independence and decision-making? Teach team-building and confidence? All of the above?
And, from the more pragmatic perspective:
- How much does the camp cost, and what is included (transportation, meals/snacks, private instruction, equipment)?
- How and when is payment required?
- What are our options for camp dates, times and locations?
- Do you have a registration deadline and how quickly do your camps fill up?
- Is any special insurance required?
- Are instructors certified and, if so, by what organization(s)?
As parents, Kelly and Craig feel that their kids have benefited greatly from their participation in sports camps. “They became more independent and learned to make their own choices. They have met other students they would not normally have had an opportunity to play with. Now, with Facebook and other social networking options, they stay in touch with those kids. So even from the social aspect, it has had big big benefits.”
They have also learned that what is important when choosing a camp has changed based on the ages of their children. For instance, when they were younger, the opportunity to obtain an overall experience and what fit into the family’s schedule and budget seemed to be the priority. As they got older and were more committed to their sports, they found that camp could give them good experience, even helping them move up to their next level of achievement.
The Whites’ advice for parents sending their kids to sports camps is to “make sure they have fun, especially when they’re young.” They caution that parents and children should not expect to come away being great athletes or obtaining a scholarship. The camps expose youth to sports and that should be a positive experience; parents have a lot to do with that.
Craig and Kelly White also pointed out that local club or high school camps are often more affordable options, but that does not mean they are not as good. They usually have smaller enrollments so they may be better fits for campers seeking more individual attention. The Whites also recommend that parents consider a day camp option for college camps to save money. Campers receive all the same training and activities, but they can come home and sleep in their own beds at the end of the day.
For a list of sports camps in the Athens area, check out our sports camp section at www.AthensMOVE.com/camps.
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