With three decades of experience, National Academy of Athletics founder, Aaron Locks, offers parents nine steps for choosing the right camp for their kids.
Summer camps should be an awesome experience for all children. The focus should be on fun, education and being active. This is my 32nd year involved in youth sports camps clinics and trainings and I’m excited to offer these tips.
When selecting a summer sports camp, or any summer camp for that matter, it is very important that you do your homework. The following information will be very helpful to parents attempting to find the most engaging programs for the kids to participate in this summer.
Many of these topics may seem to be common sense, but as a father of two active kids, I know how important it is not to skip any of the steps.
1. TAKE TIME: Figure out your family needs. Is the camp or camps going to serve as day care, instruction, or vacation fun? If the parents are working and the kids need a safe place to go, do the times and scheduled weeks fit the needs of your family? Find out the ages of the participants to make sure that the camp is age-appropriate for your child. Many of us parents feel our kids are capable of playing sports when they are very young. Although that is true on some levels, putting your child in a camp that is not age-appropriate, can cause major challenges.
2. TALK WITH YOUR KIDS: Once you know what you are looking for, it’s a good idea to be sure it’s something your kids will enjoy. Find out what your child is interested in or what they may want to learn; it can truly help to get buy-in and keep their interest the entire week. Many of us parents like to expand our children’s horizons by offering them the opportunity to try something new. I am a big fan of doing this in the camp environment. That being said, I do believe that a one-day clinic is a much better place to start than a commitment to a five-day camp.
3. THE FAMILY BUDGET: It does no good to find out about expensive camps or extravagant adventures if your family budget will not be able to handle it. Figure out if going to one one-week camp for $600 for is better than going to three different camps at $200 per week. The old saying, “You get what you pay for,” does hold weight here; however, often times Parks and Recreation’s, YMCA’s and other nonprofits offer some pretty cool unit programs at very affordable rates.
4. GET SPECIFIC: Once you have decided the type of camp or camps to register your child for, it is time to sift through the options out there for you to choose from. Not every sport-specific camp is the same. If it is a basketball camp, does it offer competition, instruction or just fun and games? Be sure to ask questions and do your research online to find out specifically what the camp offers. Let’s face it, most of our kids want to go to camp to have fun and compete where we parents might want them to actually learn some sport-specific and life skills.
5. WHO’S RUNNING THINGS? It is very important to know who will be working with your child. Don’t be concerned with just the name attached to the camp, but who will be doing the coaching or teaching every day. Find out what the camper-to-coach ratio is. Most quality camps offer a maximum 10 to 1 camper to coach ratio. This allows for maximum teaching and supervision for safety.
6. HISTORY OF THE CAMP: There are many camp companies. Some have been around a short while and others have a longer history. If you are going to put a deposit down or pay for a camp that is two or three months away, be sure the company is reputable and find out their refund policies. You can check with Yelp or other online ratings. Another tip is to check if the camp has a Facebook page. See who is posting information and that will help to give you a better idea of the experiences others have had at the camp.
7. LOCATION: It is important to make sure that the location of the camp is going to be offered has quality facilities as well as being nearby your home or office. Are the facilities in a good neighborhood?
8. GO TIME: Once you have registered for the camp, you should receive a confirmation which should include all of the equipment or things you will need to bring to camp. Find out if they provide meals or if there are supplies you may need to purchase separately. This one is personal to me. I remember when I signed my son up for a basketball camp at a local college. On paper it looked like everything would be great. Unfortunately, when we got there, he did not get to play in the big gym featured in all of the brochure pictures. He played outdoors half of the time and in the school’s auxiliary gym the rest. Part of the experience my son wanted was the opportunity to play on that big beautiful gym floor.
9. THE DROP OFF: Be sure you feel comfortable when you drop your child off at the camp. Often times the child might be uncomfortable because they are new to the sport or activity, but as the parents, we should always use our gut for judging. Parents will often sit and watch the first 10-15 minutes to make sure things are organized, running smoothly, and the child is having a good experience. Be sure to double-check that the camp has your IWS Number – I Will Answer (Cell) number or any other emergency contacts. Also, be sure that you have a number you can use to reach the camp if needed. Finally, confirm the time for pick-up.
Whether you to go to one of the National Academy of Athletics camps or another, I truly hope your child has a safe, fun, educational experience.
By Aaron Locks