Bill Victor: Things to consider about summer sports camps

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Take your pick with this list of summer camps.

photoBill Victor, Vancouver fitness consultant.

While mother nature has been doing everything she can lately to keep the word “summer” as something found only in the dictionary, Pacific Northwesterners know better than to wait until they feel the warmth of the sun before they make their plans. Within this mix come vacations, changes in family routines, new schedules and activities to enjoy. Summer sport camps are no exception.

While summer multi-sport camps are still a large part of camp offerings, young athletes have slowly morphed into a breed of competitors who work year-round on their skills. This new model positions itself in a way that increases the value of the sports summer camp for parents, and certainly has an effect on the selection process. They are more compelled than ever to make the right choice as they review, analyze and research camps that will best develop their young athlete.

As a coach of speed, quickness and agility, my predictable bias is one that encourages all athletes to attend a camp that has them working consistently on what I refer to as “off-ball” skills -- where cutting, accelerating, foot and motor patterns and directional changes are the focus. I have always maintained, having the best basketball jump-shot in the world won’t amount to much if you can’t get to the open court fast enough to shoot it. Equally, the fastest tennis player with poor technical skills might run every ball down, and proceed to hit the majority of returns into the net. This marriage of fundamentals and movement skills serves as further validation that these two aspects of sport work in harmony instead of being exclusive to one another.

Whether an athlete chooses a “full meal deal” camp that approaches every fundamental of a specific sport or a camp centered on specific skill sets (ex: for baseball, an “infielder’s camp”, for football a “quarterbacks camp”, etc.), parents, athletes and coaches need to take into account some key points:

Perform the interview: Summer camp listings should always include the instructor’s names and phone numbers. Never hesitate to call the contact person to gather as much information as you can to make a well-informed decision.

Competitiveness: Some kids play to win constantly, while others don’t care nearly as much about the score. It is important to determine whether your child is an intense competitor, enjoys being part of the bigger picture or both. The camp selection and interview should take those criteria into consideration.

Stick around: There is no better way to stay “plugged in” to your kid than to see them in action -- regardless of how much or how little they choose to share with you over dinner. It also puts you in a position to assess the quality of the camp.

Fun matters: Even in some of my most intense camps, we have always made time to laugh. It gives the athletes a mental break and creates unity among the campers.

Pee-wee power: Before technology ruled, kids hopped, skipped, ran, climbed trees, and developed multiple sports and movement skills simply as a result of play. This translated into natural movement skills while having fun at the same time. Look for camps that use ways to encourage movement, especially with young children, whether it be “kickball camp,” “jump rope camp” or countless other camps where moving is a large part of the curriculum.

Your child’s summer sports camp can be so many different things at the same time -- a place to improve skills, make friends and develop into better athletes. Most importantly, all these can be accomplished in a fun and positive atmosphere.

Bill Victor is the owner of Victor Fitness System Professional Fitness Trainers, Flashpoint Athletic Speed & Agility Specialists, and Performance Nutrition Consultants. He can be reached at billv@victorfitsystems.com, 360-750-0815 and online at www.theflashpoint.org and www.victorfitnesssystems.com.