I know it’s only February and the NFL season just ended, but now is the time of year when parents and players need to start thinking about their summer camp plans.
Here are five things to seek in a good summer football 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. All five tips are relevant to a flag football or contact camp.
1. Your child should want to go
The camp should be one that your child really wants to attend and the exact reasons why they want to go don’t really matter. If they are excited to be there, they’ll get a lot more out of it than if you have to force them out the door every day. Talk to other parents about their plans because friends like to go to camp with friends.
RELATED CONTENT: When is it OK for kids to quit their youth sports team?
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 to have them participate in drills, games and other activities with and against other kids of similar ability. If your child dominates, it might be fun for them, but they won’t get much better. And if they can’t keep up at all, it will be a miserable experience.
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 – often with their players as counselors – with at least a 10 to 1 camper-to-coach ratio.
RELATED CONTENT: Football parents, set up your own OTAs
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 just before or during the camp. This is especially important for that first-time camper who might decide after day one they don’t want to return for whatever reason.
Summer sports camps aren’t for everyone, and they’re not a requirement to succeed on the gridiron at any level. But if you are going to invest the money to send your child, it pays to do some research to make sure you get the most out of it.
RELATED CONTENT: Placing your child on injured reserve is never easy
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.