The decision to attend soccer camp has been made. It promises to be an exciting, fun and rewarding experience. But you can’t just show up and believe all will be well. You need to prepare both mentally and physically for the challenges and opportunities you will be presented with at camp.
A camp can be a mentally challenging environment, explained David Blomquist, Head Coach of the Azusa Pacific University men’s soccer team in Azusa, California. He says, “It is an unfamiliar situation where the player does not know the coach, other campers, and the training field. Therefore, it is important to be mentally prepared. I think today’s young players can handle the unknown well, as they have often been in a wide variety of competitive environments during their youth. They can draw on those experiences to adapt well to camp.”
Blomquist states that it is also important for players to bring a level of confidence to camp. For any player, confidence is important to playing well, and maintaining confidence is important for overcoming mistakes. He adds, “It is important for youngsters to realize that in a camp environment mistakes will be made. But overall focus, attitude and effort will lead to a positive camp experience.”
Rob Ryerson, Camp Director of the Rob Ryerson Professional Soccer Camp says players should come physically prepared for camp because in most cases, they are not used to playing so much soccer in a short period of time. “It is imperative that players come to camp healthy and rested as the demands of camp takes a toll on the players bodies throughout the day”, he says.
Dominic Willock, Owner of Proper Soccer in Ontario, Canada, adds, “It is good to come into camp fresh. Especially if it is a college ID camp. If you physically can’t participate then going to camp is useless. The more fit and strong the better you can show.”
It’s a common theme that, as someone prepares for camp, it is important to be both fit and fresh. This can be a challenge depending on the player’s current playing season. For those who are just coming off a competitive season, or are in the midst of one, it is important to be rested in the days leading up to camp. For those in their off season it is important to maintain a high level of fitness in advance of camp training. Camp structures are often demanding in both schedule and intensity and for players to perform at a high level, being both fit and fresh are critical.
Phil Rose, National Soccer Coaches Association of America State Technical Director for Florida and a member of the State Olympic Development Program Staff, advises, “Players should be physically prepared for camp. Any pre-camp conditioning requirement should be fulfilled. Making sure that fitness levels are maintained and making any lifestyle adjustments prior to camp are all part of the camp experience. Making sure attending camp fresh by not overtraining, getting enough rest and sleep, getting to camp in good time, especially if a camper has travelled long distances, are all important preparation stages.”
Rose says being ready mentally for camp means getting adequate rest and sleep, focusing on the event, and understanding what is required to fully enjoy the camp and gain maximum benefit. Researching the camp and watching videos, going to the camp’s website, and reading bios of camp staff and coaches are all part of the pre-camp experience, he says. Soccercamps.com can be a valuable resource to players and parents looking for such guidance.
Ryerson believes knowing what will be expected of them will also enhance players’ camp experiences. “It is important for players to know schedules, events, the coaching staff and other pertinent info so there are no surprises during an already busy day. It is important to recognize that you are there to learn, enjoy and have fun. It is not necessary during the camp to win every game or event, but to enjoy the overall camp experience with the other campers and staff.”
Blomquist concurs. “It is always a benefit to know the camp details and what will be expected on and off the field. This helps the camper to prepare physically and mentally. However, adaptability is also a key for a good camp experience. There will always be situations that change. Being able to have an open mind and being as prepared as possible for any training atmosphere will benefit the camper.”
As for what to bring to camp, Rose says appropriate soccer apparel and equipment, soccer ball (if one is not provided), a positive attitude, and any items required by the camp provider should be on the list. “Apart from a cell phone to stay in contact with family and possibly an Ipad, campers need to focus on soccer.” Unhealthy snacks and drinks should always be avoided. Lots of electronic equipment is not necessary and can be a major distraction from what should be a socially interactive and rewarding learning experience.
Ryerson says to bring a new soccer ball, sunscreen, water, fresh shirts, lunches/snacks (if necessary), a backpack, sneakers, flip flops, and a baseball hat. Don’t bring pets of any type and carbonated drinks.
Says Blomquist, “Along with the usual things a player will need for soccer training and overnight stays, it is important to bring extras that will help with hydration, nutrition and recovery. With the demands of a camp, and soccer in general, it is important for the individual player to take ownership of their physical preparedness.” Make sure to have a water bottle to take in extra fluids, some nutrition bars to supplement camp food, and a foam roller or rolling stick to aid in muscle recovery. Many camps employ qualified trainers and/or medical staff who can assist along the way. Be sure to check Soccercamps.com for such details.
Willock advises to bring all playing equipment needed, water bottles, flip flops to let the feet breathe, and enough changes of clothes. “I wouldn’t bring electronics as camps are a good way to make friends and socialize. Bring a good attitude and leave the bad attitude at home.”
Adds Rose, “Understanding the camp rules, performance expectations, fitness and technical levels, and the rest and recovery that will be needed between sessions are crucial to a positive camp experience.”
The message is clear: Making sure to know exactly what to expect of a camp and how to adequately prepare both mentally and physically, will ensure a player makes the absolute best of their camp season.