Setting Expectations for Soccer Camp

There are many reasons why parents and their children decide to attend a soccer camp.
Brian Kuk, Executive Director of the Virginia-based Club Champions League, Inc., says the reasons players 15 years of age or older attend camp are in large part to be seen by a college soccer program/coach. “Each person has a specific reason for choosing a camp,” says Kuk. “My suggestion would be to compare three camps to see which offers what (experience in the field, quality of instructors, etc.). I often say, go to a camp and observe before selecting a camp, you will learn a lot.” A good place to start is www.soccercamps.com, which offers a comprehensive set of camp comparison tools.

Phil Rose, National Soccer Coaches Association of America State Technical Director for Florida and a member of the State Olympic Development Program Staff, says mistakes can be avoided by establishing “transparency” between camp and parents/camper, and by seeking out a camp that has “great marketing and organization.” He adds, “Communication is a big reason individuals choose one camp over the other, as is the reputation of the camp/owner/coaches.” And, although some parents don’t like to admit it, cost plays a “big role” in why they chose one camp over others. “Being able to justify the cost is totally vital to a successful overall experience at a camp,” Rose says.

Chochi Valenzuela, Director of Speed Trainers USA, agrees that cost is “always” a reason for choosing a camp, “but each individual family makes a determination on how cost affects their decision. In this case don’t be afraid to ask for scholarships because I’ve given out a few in special cases.” Valenzuela cites a number of reasons individuals choose a soccer camp: the camp offers a convenient location and times; a players’ friends/teammates are attending the camp; the reputation of the camp or coaches at the camp; the camp is skill level, age and gender appropriate; the camp is topic specific (goal keeper camp, speed camp, etc.); it is an overnight camp; it is a day camp; the camp is inside; the camp is outside; the camp is at the right time of year; and it is a club-sponsored function or a team camp.

Valenzuela observes, “Another reason is the seriousness or commitment level of the player (a more serious or committed player/family will not be as concerned about price but more about quality). If a player simply likes playing and they’re not that driven, then a lower priced camp could be more appealing.”

Dominic Willock, Owner of Proper Soccer in Ontario, Canada, says the reasons for attending a camp usually involves the desire to get extra touches on the ball, enhance fitness, or to train with better players/coaches. Sometimes it is the belief that a change in scenery will help a player blossom. Adds Willock, “Since soccer is a cheaper sport, cost could be a factor. More clubs are doing camps themselves as part of their overall program and are trying to keep costs down.” As mentioned, there are “specialty” camps, such as striker/keeper camps that work well for those specific positions, but it is difficult to determine which camp fits a player best. “Camps overall are good to get extra work, but it must be from good coaches,” says Willock.” Willock believes one reason for parents not to choose a camp is the hope that “a week will make their kid the best player ever.” It just helps, some more than others. And, he adds, “Don’t go to a camp where the trainer-to-coach ratio is too high, where it just looks like a money grab.”

Kuk agrees with Willock on the camper-to-staff ratio. “Especially young players need attention and an environment where they can experiment and ask questions–and get answers to those questions. I would also be wary about very young coaches as the bulk of the staff. Parents should invest their hard-earned money for their child in an experience that provides fun and professionalism.”

Another reason for not choosing to attend camp is for it to be a babysitting venture. Says Valenzuela, “If it happens to work out that the camp does double duty of a good camp and it fit’s your schedule then that’s a bonus. But, don’t put your kid into a situation they don’t belong in. It’s just not fair to anyone involved–the coaches, the other kids who are there to learn and get better because they want to be there, and your kid(s).”

Good references are certainly a reason for choosing one camp over others, and these are usually listed on organization’s website to show credibility. Says David Brown of UK International Soccer, “A large organization, partnering with a soccer provider, is very important, as they will have undertaken a number of layers of information gathering and compliance to ensure a quality product. This is often more reliable than information found on a website, as you can ask more direct questions and get honest responses.”

Valenzuela says parents/player expectations are powerful reasons for choosing to attend a camp. “If all parties (player, parent, coaching staff) arrive expecting big things to happen then they will most likely rise to those expectations.” That being said, It’s rare that something hugely magical happens in a one-week day camp. But it can and he’s seen players have huge gains in technical and tactical understanding over the span of one week. “I see bigger gains in overnight camps because there is a removal of the ordinary structure and everything revolves around the sport. Two and three week camps are where you can really expect dynamic enhancement of campers’ skills.” Regardless of the length of the camp mostly all players come away from the experience energized and ultimately accelerated in their developmental progress.

In short, finding the right camp for your child or team can be a great experience, and the right expectations coupled with a good camp experience will energize campers’ desire and enthusiasm for the game. Those are reasons enough for attending a soccer camp.

Soccercamps.com resources help to appropriately match players with coaches, camps and educational opportunities that encourage and improve the play of soccer around the world.
Visit www.soccercamps.com today to begin your search!