Saturday, June 4, 2016

Summer camps - what to expect

Using my standard that only 5% of kids play select volleyball to get a college scholarship or, said another way, only 5% are LIKELY to get a college scholarship in volleyball, what should the other 95% look for in a summer camp?  The same thing most kids/parents look for in their club team: a place to get some good instruction but, above all, a place to get lots of touches.  The higher the coach-to-player ratio the more the value will be on instruction.   The lower the coach-to-player ratio, the more the emphasis will be on touches.

I have heard about one local college camp that the instructors sure worked the kids hard during the weeklong camp.  That is the ideal for me because it means the kids got lots of repetitions with limited, well-spaced break periods.

Let's look at some things parents should look for in their summer camp:

1. Is there an evaluation on the first morning of the camp to place kids with their peers?   Many camps have this so that they can tailor the pace of the drills to the experience and ability of the kids.  Although this may only represent 10% of the time your child is at the camp it may be the most important part of the camp.   If your child is rated to high they will likely be over their head, competing against players too good for their current abilities.   More likely, however, kids are placed too low which means their group will not be at the pace that they will need to improve.  Still, for 95% of the kids, it shouldn't matter as much if you are one group too high or one group too low for where you truly belong.   If you are placed way too low or way too high, however, I might ask the coaches about it right away.  Don't worry if there is no evaluation process, however.  To me it just means that the emphasis is a little more on touches and a little less on advanced play.   As I said, for most of the 95% of kids who play club ball, this is probably fine.

2. Are the coaches giving more individual instruction to the better players in each group?   I know this sounds wrong as the general thought is that all players should get the same instruction, consider that by giving more individual instruction to the better players in a group and more touches to the weaker players in a group is probably appropriate. 

3. Are the coaches having fun with the kids and are the kids having fun with the coaches?   Here is a general although not absolute rule:   for girls the age of the coach is inversely proportional to how the kids react to the coach.   That is, a young female coach who is easygoing and talented will get better results for girls than some old crusty guy will. 

4. If I was you I would stay away from camps run by select volleyball clubs.  I think there is just too much schmoozing going on between parents and players who want to kiss up to the club running the camp.   Camps should NOT be about recruiting for select clubs, not even 1%.   And by that I mean showing kids how good the coaches are in a club, how efficiently a camp is run, how fun the coaches are, etc.    Leave camps to professional coaches, like college coaches.    If you are thinking you will invest your camp dollars this summer to try to get your kid on a better club team next year, I think you are missing the point of what summer camps are about.   This includes grade school camps run by high schools.  At one high school I know of they have the varsity and JV coach running the camp and the varsity players running the groups at the camp.   I just think that the quality of the instruction is not even worth the time.   Ditto for people trying to run camps as a way to make a living.    While your child may have a good experience at one of these camps, more likely they (and you) will be disappointed, especially if you are in one of the lower groups.

Hope this helps.  Enjoy your summer and work to spend your volleyball dollars wisely!