Tips to Selecting the Right Soccer Camp

There are many soccer camps that offer a myriad of services. But the overriding expectations a player and his/her parents should have is that camp be a fun, positive environment, with an engaging coach who can motivate, teach and demonstrate age appropriate soccer skills. Says David Brown of UK International Soccer, “It should be a program where kids are better players at the end of the week because they have had lots of quality touches on the soccer ball.

Brian Kuk, Executive Director of the Virginia-based Club Champions League, Inc., adds, “Players should want to be seen by a college soccer program/coach if they are a15-year-old or older; learn new skills; go to camp with a friend to play a sport they love; and learn from a new coach.”

Phil Rose, National Soccer Coaches Association of America State Technical Director for Florida and a member of the State Olympic Development Program Staff, opines, “Players expect technical development, learning tactical systems, enhancing their game performance, receiving good instruction, access to excellent facilities run by professional coaches and great administration. Above all, it should be fun.”

Brown says a parent should expect a safe environment in which to leave their child. This includes friendly, responsible and communicative coaches with an acceptable player/coach ratio that is dependent upon the ages of the kids in the camp. They should expect a breakdown of the curriculum, an understanding of what is going to be taught, an opportunity to watch their child play/demonstrate the skills taught and some kind of age appropriate evaluation at the end of the week. “They should ideally expect their child to be taught something beyond soccer techniques and tactics and learn life skills such as communication, teamwork, and social interaction.”

Brown adds, “There are recognized and reputable soccer camp organizations out there and there are other groups that have set up, sometimes quickly, with less regard to a child-centered, developmentally appropriate curriculum whose staff are not necessarily certified, licensed and background checked.”

Rob Andrulis, a regional director for No.1 One Soccer Camps, says that all soccer camps are not the same, so be sure to do your research. “No.1 Soccer Camps was the first of its kind founded 40 years ago by Dr. Joe Machnik and has been the leader in providing the best in a soccer camp experience. Others claim to do the same but often don’t deliver. I’m a little biased but we have been doing this for a long time with over 100,000 campers to date and a return camper rate in the 60 percent range.” A good place for camps to promote themselves and for players to research various options is www.soccercamps.com, which offers a comprehensive set of camp promotion and comparison tools.

Kuk believes that with all of the choices out there today, it is important to know what type of camp will fit a campers’ needs best. “Many times it is the camp that is closest to the family/camper. If it is a day camp, that is definitely the case. Typically, local municipalities (recreation programs) will work hard to bring in soccer programs to help teach/coach recreational level players. Many youth soccer clubs are becoming more professionalized and have a full-time staff that run camps.”

A club player may not want to attend a camp at his or her club because they are seeking a but of variety. This is not always the case, but is a question that the player/family must answer. Says Kuk, “Camp businesses that hold camps at various locations around the country are sometimes appealing because of the name of the programs, quality of coaches, etc. New coaches and learning from new coaches can be fun. Residential camps are a different breed, as you need to weigh the location/accommodations along with the quality of coaches.”

Brown advises parents and players to look at who a particular camp organization has partnered with or provided programs for in the past. Have they had a long-standing relationship with a reputable sporting body, recreational league, national brand or governing body?

What is their curriculum? Where can you find detailed information about what the kids do, day to day, even hour by hour? How long has the organization been running soccer programs, and what has been their evolution with regard to their curriculums and camps? Who are their coaches? He adds, “If the organization is an individual as the `brand’ how long will that individual be working with their players. or are they just lending their name to the program?” Soccercamps.com will offer answers to many of these advanced questions.

There can be misconceptions among players and parents concerning what they will derive from a soccer camp. This is often due to the level of player a program is designed for. There are various levels of camp, from a program for a first-year, recreational level player to a program for elite athletes. Don’t put your child in a program simply due to the “brand” or the aspirations you may have for your child to be associated with a certain organization.

Equally, ensure you do not put your child in a program that is at a level where they are not challenged. Kids need a challenge to avoid boredom and to enhance their soccer development. Look at who the camp is being provided in association with, and/or whom the camp states as the level of player that should be attending. “Everyone welcome” or “open to all” is something that you should seek clarity on.

For younger children, again remember that an enjoyable, and memorable, experience are the most important reasons for then to attend a program. They are going to have many concerns being away from their parents, so being in an environment that makes them happy is critical to their enjoyment of the sport. Don’t over expect what a young child will “learn” at a camp in terms of technical ability, and be aware of each individual age group’s limitations and your expectation of success. The mere fact that a four- or five-year-old is excited to attend the next day or the next program is an adequate measure of success.

Kuk says it is important for the player/parent to have realistic expectations about results that will be derived from camp. “The approach should always be long term. Ultimately, if the player wants to be better they will listen (be a sponge) and then practice every day. The player needs to be in control–enjoyment of the game comes from the player. Mom and dad should support and encourage the enjoyment.”

Brown says many organizations have extensive information on their websites and/or promotional information. If this is basic or very generic, then seek clarification. A visit to www.soccercamps.com can help answer many questions. A call to the head office for information is always useful if you are still unsure. It also allows you to get a feel for the person/people responsible for the management of the program.

And, be aware that some camps may over promise but under deliver. This could be due to several reasons, perhaps because of children being placed in an environment not conducive to success, a poorly motivated coach, i.e., someone used to working with high level players being asked to work with first year recreational kids, or a curriculum that is geared towards elite athletes but attended by a player for whom soccer is not his or her main sport.

Says Brown, “Know the camp and sign up accordingly, but remember that while player development is very important, so is fun and the two should be balanced to ensure a positive outcome.”

Soccercamps.com matches 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!