With snow shovels recently put away and flowers barely poking through the ground, it might seem strange to start thinking about summer camp, but most sign-up periods are held in the spring. According to a 2013 survey by American Express, parents will spend more than $800 per child on summer activities like sports teams, pool memberships and camps.
Summertime presents a prime opportunity for young athletes to catch up to their teammates and even surpass competitors in fitness, strength and skill. For young athletes, camps are not only an introduction to group training but are also a great way to get socially acclimated in organized sports.
For the perfect summer training regimen, aim to be active every day with a few days off. Former NFL player and CoachUp coach Izaan Cross says that for children 5 to 10 years old, usually an hour of exercise a few days a week is sufficient.
"That can be at a camp or clinic, private coaching, cross training with friends, training individually or with a parent, or general exercising," Cross says. "Film study, speed training, flexibility work and weight room availability become vital for an athlete, especially once you get in the upper teenage years."
Unfortunately, camps often last just a few days and can't replace three months of consistent activity. Parents can help their athletes by making exercise a routine over the summer. Even parents without a sports background can help. Timing athletes, counting reps, completing drills and taking them on bike rides, trail runs or to a local swimming pool are ways to get children active. When preseason arrives, the transition to regular practice will not be such a shock. Your athlete will begin his or her season in shape, which will lead to more confidence in play and reduced anxiety.
And Cross says coaches will notice.
"For young players especially, conditioning always serves as a giveaway for the type of work that a player has put in during the off-season," Cross says. "You can also tell if a player has stayed active or partaken in summer training camp by questioning their knowledge of the game. If they can answer questions that they would not have been able to answer the prior season or they do not make the same mistakes that they made the prior season, they most likely continued their growth as an athlete during the off-season."
Pros of camps
- They last just a few days or weeks.
- Children can practice with nearby athletes they might see at practice or competition.
- Children will be exposed to different coaching styles or training, especially for out-of-state camps.
- Children will meet athletes from other areas, improving their quality of training and potentially creating new friendships.
Cons of camps
- Children may not get individual attention.
- Children could learn bad habits from other athletes.
- If children get sick or injured at the beginning of camp, the value of the camp diminishes.
- Routines and regimens are tailored for the group; specific needs may be overlooked or not addressed.
- Camps can be expensive.