Capture the Benefits of Sports Camp
By Gayla Grace
“My kids have never been to camp.” I almost spewed my drink when the mom of seven told me she doesn’t see the value of sending kids to camp. “Really?” My answer was short but my mind was reeling as I assessed what her kids miss each summer by never experiencing camp. I couldn’t help myself as I began to pontificate on the value of camp.
Camp has a unique way of teaching kids their value while giving them opportunities of fun they would never experience at home. Sports camps, in
particular, offer new adventures as kids explore hidden abilities or build on already-developed skills while making new friends and learning life skills in the process. Sports camps offer benefits that extend far beyond the basics of practicing a sport.
Character-building opportunities. Sports camps teach kids what perseverance feels like and what it means to reach outside their comfort zones. “Sports themselves are great for the physical aspect but also teach sportsmanship, camaraderie and discipline,” says Matt Davanzo, director of an all sports academy. Tennis pro Eric Fromm says sports, particularly tennis, help kids develop skills they can use their entire lives. “These skills carry over into school work and life skills-dealing with adversity, problem solving, overcoming obstacles, focusing, learning how to lose and pick yourself up.”
Exercise. Childhood and adolescent obesity rates continue to climb and lack of exercise contributes significantly to the problem. Technology seduces kids to stay indoors and in front of a screen. Sports camps offer a great alternative as kids choose what sports they’re interested in and reap the rewards of exercise in the process. Eric Fromm lists the number one reason to send kids to camp is because “kids are meant to be active over the summer.” Regular exercise doesn’t happen naturally, however; there must be planning, intentional effort, and encouragement from parents.
Fun. The fun of summer break wanes if days drag on with nothing to do. Sports camps provide fun and learning at the same time. They often include high school and college students who work with kids in a playful and energetic manner, creating a natural atmosphere for fun.
New friends. Kids find new friends at sports camp who share similar interests and often go to the same school. When our family re-located to another state during the summer months, our elementary-aged son found new friends through a baseball camp that helped him acclimate to his new school in the fall. Kids experience natural and friendly camaraderie with others through sports camps.
Focus on specific skill-building techniques. An athlete gains more confidence and greater ability in his sport by working on the mechanics of a sport repetitively. Playing a sport through the school year doesn’t incorporate everyday skill-building repetition like camps do. As kids move through middle school and high school, it’s particularly important that they improve in their sport to stay competitive.
Find new sports of interest. Sports camps are the perfect place to explore sports that a child hasn’t tried before or aren’t always offered at school, such as tennis or soccer. With a friendly camp staff and encouraging environment, kids are less intimidated and more likely to seek new interests.
Develop healthy lifelong habits. Through regular exercise at sports camps, kids also develop accompanying habits of discipline, commitment and responsibility. These habits translate into leadership skills and strong work ethics when kids begin to move into career-minded opportunities in their middle and high school years.
Give parents a break. Whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, work-at-home dad, or in the workforce outside the home, sports camps give parents a chance to take their mind off their child and focus on their own needs and wants for a change. Every parent deserves a break from the 24/7 parenting responsibilities that summer warrants.
As a mom to five children, I’ve watched our kids emerge from summer sports camps with enthusiasm for a new sport, rediscovered self-confidence, like-minded friendships and regular exercise habits that propelled them into a new school year. While unplugged from technology in an active environment, sports camps offer friendly competition and valuable life lessons for kids.
Camp counselor Jodi Lorane says, “Camp increases kids’ self-esteem as they try new things, taking them outside their comfort zones and forcing them to work through their fears.” Lorane also says,
“Kids at camp get acquainted with those who come from varying home situations which allows them to see the world through different eyes.”
Sports camps create lifelong memories amidst fun, learning, and exercise. What are you waiting for? Have you signed your child up for a sports camp this summer?
Gayla Grace is a freelance journalist and mom to five who sends her kids to camp every summer.