Trying to find the right soccer camp for your child can entail a lot of hard work. But if you ask the right questions and do the correct research, your son or daughter will definitely enjoy a week or two of their summer vacation and have a pleasant educational experience as well.
So, what do you look for in a soccer camp?
Well, it all depends on what you want.
Do you want to travel far? Do you want to stay close to home? Do you want a recreational camp? Do you want a specialty camp — ie. for goalkeepers?
Some players and parents want day camps. Others want overnight or residential camps. Still others – select or Olympic Development Program players, for example – may opt for the advanced session camps.
The best thing to do is to gather as much information as you can.
After you have read the brochures and whittled down your choices to a precious few and you still are undecided, don’t be afraid to ask questions and compare and contrast. No two camps are exactly alike.
What are the facilities like? What is the coach-to-camper ratio? Are there other activities besides soccer? What is the price? And so on.
There’s no charge to ask (and if you don’t you might be paying a lot more later) whether the questions are to the camp director or to a friend or teammate who attended the camp or another parent. Word of mouth can be a powerful tool. If you don’t know, how else are you going to find out?
This website does not endorse any camps. What is good for your son might not be right for your daughter, friend or neighbor.
So, what do you look for in a soccer camp?
Here’s a check list that should help you decide:
A camp director does not have to be a famous player or coach — current or former — but he or she must be outgoing and be a coach or have some kind of education background. It is also important to make sure that the director attends and participates in the camp sessions and is not a figurehead who shows up when the campers arrive and leave.
The camp staff also should have some kind of educational background — instructor, teacher or coach — too. A good camp will have a mixture of experienced coaches and college-age players on staff. The campers might look up to the older staff members, but might relate better to the younger ones.
How many years a camp has been around can be a determining factor. Ones with solid reputations should have quite a few references, especially for the campers who keep coming back.
The facility should be one of high quality. And because it is a summer soccer camp, make sure there are contigency plans for rain and thunderstorms. Is there a gymnasium for indoor activities in an emergency? Is there a TV with a VCR so players can learn about the games? There is nothing worse than bored campers having nothing to do, sitting around in the gymnasium or worse, in their dorm rooms all day while it pours outside.
A sound ratio should be one fulltime staff member to 10 campers, so the kids have an opportunity to work in small groups and get an education. Obviously, the smaller the group the better. Be wary of camps that have 20-1 ratios. That might be a baby-sitting service rather than a soccer camp.
Look at what the camp has to offer. Does the progression from hour to hour and day to day make sense? Is there enough activity and conversely, rest in-between.
Is it a soccer-only camp or is soccer just one of several activities?
Some camps may offer other activities such as swimming and other sporting pursuits. Does your son or daughter want a soccer-only environment or does he or she want a variety of choices? It might depend on their age and development as a soccer player.
If your child is a competitive player and wants to play in high school, you probably would be interested in a camp that focuses on techniques and tactics. If your he or she is part of the Olympic Development Program pool and is heading for college, find a camp that is designed for the elite player.
More camps are specializing in positions (goalkeepers and strikers) and in advanced tactics. For example, if you are an aspiring high school goalkeeper, you might want to attend a keepers’ camp instead of a general one.
How are the skill levels and age classification broken up? Players should be grouped according to age and ability. Pairing an advanced 15-year-old select player with a 10-year-old intramural player is nothing short of ridiculous. But believe it or not, there have been reports of such happenings in the past.
There should be a registered nurse or an athletic trainer on staff and on call at all times for the safety of all campers. There should be no exceptions.
Make sure everything is spelled out in the brochure so there will be no surprises come July and August. Some camps require a players brings his or her own balls. Many give out shirts, souvenirs and awards. Still others have souvenirs stands.
Find out what the week’s menu is. It should be varied and nutritional. If it’s hot dogs for lunch everyday, then the camp is heading for trouble. A fast-food diet and soccer do not mix.
You might have a few more questions of your own to ask before making that final decision.
It’s your money, and more importantly, your son’s and daughter’s summer vacation. They’re supposed to have fun.
And who knows? If you do your research correctly and find the right camp, you might not have to go through the search process next year or in other years.