Summer is winding down but it’s not too late to evaluate football camps that your child might attend next year. Visit prospective camps if they are still in session, and either way, begin talking to parents about the pros and cons of camps their child attended over the past several weeks.
Here are five things to evaluate when looking for a good camp. My focus here is going to be on the average athlete, who plays football mostly for fun with some aspirations to be a high school player.
1. Your child should want to go
The camp should be one that your child really wants to attend and the reason doesn’t really matter. If he wants to go, he’ll get a lot more out of it than if you have to force him out the door every morning. If possible, send him with a friend.
2. The players should be of similar ability
You want your child to learn and improve as a football player, and the best way for that to happen is for them to be participating in drills and activities with and against other kids who have similar abilities.
3. Qualified coaches
For optimal learning to take place the camp coaching staff has to be qualified and the camper-to-coach ratio should be low. I always look for camps that are directed by high school or college coaches — probably with their players as counselors — with at least a 10 to 1 camper-to-coach ratio.
4. Camp schedule
The daily schedule should be a mix of drills, activities, and games. It’s tough to improve your skills if all you are doing is scrimmaging the entire time. While there might be some lunch, rest, pool or social time at the camp, it should be less than 20 percent of the week.
5. Cancellation policy
Ask about the cancellation policy and if you will be reimbursed if your child gets injured during the camp and can’t finish. This is especially important for that first-time camper who might decide not to return after the first day.
Camp isn’t for everyone and is not a requirement to succeed on the gridiron at any level. But if you are going to invest the money it pays to do some research to make sure you get the most out of it.
Jon Buzby has been involved in and writing about youth sports for the past 30 years, originally as a coach and board member with his now-adult son and most recently "just as a dad" with his 8- and 10-year-old sons. Jon is an award-winning writer and his latest book, “Coaching Kids Made Easier,” is available on Amazon. Send comments or future blog topics you'd like to see to JonBuzby@hotmail.com and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.