The Tennis Camp Experience
Over the course of this series we will examine the role of the tennis camp in a young player’s development. Tennis camps come in all shapes and sizes and there are programs for each level of player and we will examine the differences, expectations and benefits in attending a tennis camp this coming summer.
The series will feature articles on:
1. The Modern Camp
2. How to Choose the Right Camp
3. The Benefits of Attending a Tennis Camp
4. How to Attend Camp on a Scholarship
5. The Role of Parents in the Camp Experience.
PART I: THE MODERN TENNIS CAMP:
The Midwest is filled with dozens of opportunities for young players to pursue their tennis dreams during their summer vacations. City parks, youth center, tennis clubs, school teams and camps are just a few of the tennis destinations each summer. One of oldest and most effective methods of tennis development is the summer tennis camp. A tennis specific camp is typically 1 week long, offers an opportunity for youth to focus on their games with great intensity and allows for significant training in short periods of time. Tennis camps around the nation run the gamut and each parent and child should sit down and discuss what sort of experience the young player is hoping to find by attending a tennis camp. By asking the right questions, families are able to find a camp that is just right for them.
One of the first questions that a family must ask themselves is what sort of ENVIRONMENT do they want their child to be exposed to. Tennis camps are run by city recreational departments, middle and high schools, local tennis clubs, colleges and universities and even dedicated academies. City and school camps tend to offer 1/2 day and full day camps at local parks and schools. Club camps are typically run on-site at their facilities and are very similar to their year round training, only with longer hours. Colleges and Universities offer the young player an opportunity to “get away” from home and often these camps feature “overnight” programs.
2. TYPE OF EXPERIENCE:
Essentially there are two kinds of camps. There are day camps that can run from anywhere from 3 hours to 6 hours daily, from a week to a month to the whole summer. Then there are Overnight camps. Overnight camps typically run for a week at a time (5 days / 4 nights or 6 days / 5 nights) and are hosted by colleges and universities, prep schools, resorts, and lodges. Often the tennis is very similar. The overnight camp will often feature social and recreational activities in addition to the on and off court tennis instruction. Meals and lodging are included in the cost of the camp, as are social activities (typically). The benefits of the overnight camp include building self-reliance, independence and confidence.
3. PROGRAM TYPE:
Throughout the past several decades, tennis camps have grown exponentially and developed more sophisticated curriculums and areas of focus. In years past, all camps tended to be the same. Today, camps offer a wide range of specialties to offer junior tennis players a more specialized training experience.
By far the most popular camp is called a “traditional” camp. These sort of camps handle players from complete beginners to advanced tournament levels. The camp will break the players into small instructional groups with players of similar ability. Fundamental of the modern stroke are supplemented with drills, games, challenges and match play. Traditional camps offer a well-rounded tennis experience and typically focus more broadly than some of more specialized camps.
A second popular type of camp is the “match play” or tournament camp. These camps tend to focus less on swing technique and more on competition. This is not to say that there is not a great deal of instruction. Rather, the instruction tends to focus more on match play, strategy, point progressions and “How to Play the Game” vs “How to hit the ball”. Instructional periods are supplemented with individual and team match play.
A newer type of camp is the “College Prep” or recruiting camp. These camps are designed for high school aged junior players. These College Prep camps will often feature college coaches and college players. The on-court instruction is supplemented with off-court seminars on areas such as recruiting, college admissions and financial aid, junior scheduling. Some of these types of camps will feature a “showcase” for recruiting purposes and have college coaches present.
A day camp held at a park, school courts or a club may be as simple as just tennis courts. For most purposes, these day camps need little more than enough courts to handle the size of the camp, and perhaps some shade and facilities to use during rest periods. When attending a college or university overnight camp, dorms, athletic facilities, dining halls and social unions become involved. Overnight camps typically will house their campers in the dorms used during the school year, with 2-3 kids per room. Many dorms will feature the latest amenities needed for college students, including air conditioning, tv’s, lounges, internet hook up and more. Dining halls are typically buffet style meals, served in an all-you-can-eat manner. Proper diet and nutrition are important parts of a sports camp experience.
5. CAMP DIRECTOR:
By far the most important person involved with the camp is the camp director. This person is in charge of all aspects of the camp, not only during the camp itself but leading up to the event. Camp directors hire and train the staff, prepare the facilities and build the camp curriculums. These directors will set the tone and feel for the camp as a whole. An experienced camp director has skills that complement their tennis teaching abilities and these skills can make or break the experience.
Now that we have covered the basics of the modern tennis camp and given some examples of how tennis camps differ we will next explore the decision-making process on how to CHOOSE THE RIGHT CAMP.