When it comes to summer sports camps, the name of the game is participation. At most, every player plays, which is not the case in many school and community youth sports programs, where the best of the best frequently clock more game time than their average and below-average teammates. Summer camps level the playing field with specific skill-building activities, drills, and practices for all kinds of athletes. 

How do you pick a winner?

Many of the factors to consider are the same when choosing other camps: 

Does the staff to camper ratio allow for individualized instruction? 

Does the program’s attitude toward competition, sportsmanship, and teamwork match yours?

How experienced are the instructors, coaches, and counselors? 

Do safety regulations and medical facilities meet your standards?

Are the facilities well maintained?

But there are other factors to weigh when choosing a sports camp. Look for a program that makes fun a priority. If children don’t enjoy the game at introductory levels, they won’t want to grow and develop as players and athletes. Be wary of programs that focus too heavily on performance or competition. Unless your child exhibits extraordinary talent, summer sports camps should offer more than hard work and the opportunity to build skills.

Parents should give consideration to the overall size of the program, as well. If your child wants training in specific skills, he or she may need one-on-one attention possible only in smaller programs.

The benefits of sports camps

One obvious advantage is improved play. Dedicated practices and performance drills have turned many an average player into a highly adept athlete. 

Often, the camp experience is a child’s first brush with tournament play. This introduction to competitive athletics gives campers a taste of the life of an athlete. But sports camps can help children acquire more than just physical skills. Athletic programs help children develop important life skills, including self-discipline, self-motivation, teamwork, and proper manners.

Also critical to the personal development of campers is the positive role modeling provided by camp staff members. Sports camps tend to employ athletes who excel at the sport and coaches who have a passion for the game. These people can help young athletes envision their own pursuit of athletic excellence well into the future.

Contributing editor Cathy Ashby is a former camp director and counselor. 

Illustration by Nicole Wilkinson.


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