Sports have long been a way to keep kids busy and active, giving them a fun and beneficial hobby to enjoy outside of school — but recently, many families have found sports to be much more than a diversion. Indeed, participating in sports during youth offers nearly uncountable benefits, from regular exercise to improved social life and status and even to improved mental agility and strength. What’s more, many families find that a child with natural skill in a high-profile sport can bring fortune, fame and lifelong success.
As a result, both parents and kids devote ample time and resources to getting better at their chosen sport, even participating in summer sports camps around the country. Do these camps offer anything beyond what the child would gain by practicing at home? Are they worth the expense and hassle of travel? Ultimately, will they make a kid good?
In a word: probably. Summer sports camps offer an overwhelming number of benefits, including many that junior athletes would be hard-pressed to find at home. Here are some of the most significant advantages gained from attending a sports camp — and how parents everywhere can afford to send their child to one.
Nothing against the high school track and field coaches, but they probably trained as teachers first and coaches second. Even at schools that place an emphasis on athletics, it’s likely that only the coaches for the major sports, like football, basketball and baseball, have much experience playing and leading a team. This is because exceptional coaches command high salaries that few schools can afford to pay. It is rare that parents can afford top-tier coaches to provide one-on-one training for their children, so often junior players are stuck with what they can get at school.
That’s not the case with sports camps. Because these camps are relatively brief, the country’s best coaches can schedule their time to participate at the camps. As a result, camps often provide unique training that allows athletes to dramatically improve their skill and abilities. Because having an efficient, caring and talented coach matters, especially at a young level of play, giving a child access to the best possible coaches could impact their performance for the rest of their life.
The more time a child can spend practicing an athletic endeavor, the better they will become. During the school year, kids need to balance their training with academics and social events, which can impact the improvement of their athletic performance. Yet, for the entire duration of the sports camp, players will eat, sleep and breathe their sport, working day-in and day-out to improve their strength and stamina. This intense focus cannot last more than a month or so — players can get burnt out on such rigorous training — but it can serve to hone certain skills, push past performance plateaus and generally engage kids with the sport.
While there are sports camps for every level of play, young athletes who quality for the best camps suddenly access the world of collegiate and professional sports. It isn’t only upper-level coaches that spend time in and around summer camps; industry professionals like scouts, sponsors, agents and managers also survey the field for up-and-coming talent.
This is especially true for sports that rarely shine at the high-school level. Kids tennis camps, for instance, might be the only place for tennis academies to identify naturally gifted players because tennis teams are few and far between. It is never too early to get a child acquainted with potentially powerful people within the sport. Having the names and contact information of important movers and shakers — indeed, understanding how the business of sport functions — will help a child navigate if their career really kicks off.
Better for Your Child?
Summer sports camps offer benefits that the vast majority of student athletes regularly lack, like top-tier coaching, training and industry access. Only the most privileged kids can reach these boons in their day-to-day play, which means most young players who have natural skill and a burning desire to play professionally need to enhance their profile in other ways — and summer sports camps are a good first step. Still, parents should talk to their children about their interest in attending such camps and survey available camps carefully to ensure the program is a right fit. When kids love their sport, their coaches, their training and their connections, they will thrive.