A summer basketball camp is an essential addition to a strong high school basketball program. An effective camp is not designed for the varsity and JV level players, but rather for the elementary school, middle school, and possibly young high school players in the program. A well run camp can provide a number of benefits to a high school program. Some of those benefits are:
I would recommend that the camp be designed for players as young as the 2nd grade and as old as incoming 9th graders. Certainly older players could participate if the coach desired, but I feel a lot more mileage can be gained by having varsity and JV level players work as coaches or counselors in the camp. This provides a ready-made work force and helps to accomplish some of the important benefits listed above. Depending on the size of the facility, the number of participants in the camp, and the available work force, the age groups can be divided up in a variety of ways. Clearly it is important to separate the age groups for drills and games. That separation can be done with different age groups within the same week, or by having separate weeks for various age groups.
Many school camps today are run on a half day schedule, often with a morning session for younger players and then an afternoon session during the same week for older players. I prefer more of a full day camp, say 9:00 – 3:00. The longer time allows for more teaching of skills, as well as for playing some games and for some fun contests mixed in. During the summer parents are often looking for day care for their children. This fuller schedule can work better for their schedules and gives their children a positive and healthy activity to be involved in.
Clearly the primary goal of a camp is to teach fundamental skills to the young players in the program. The head coach will be the director of the camp and should determine what skills should be taught and how they should be taught. As much as possible, he should do much of the teaching. This is a short, but powerful opportunity to introduce a large group of future players to the critical skills needed for a successful program. The previous list of skills discussed in an earlier blog can be used as a checklist of what should be taught. As the varsity players assist in coaching, they will become better familiar with the skills and terminologies used in the program. There is no better way to learn a concept than to teach it. In addition, the young players will get to know the varsity players. As these relationships grow, young players will look up to the varsity players and want to become a varsity player themselves someday. This will increase their desire to come watch the team play in the winter and will perpetuate greater community interest in the program. It is critical that the head coach spend some time previous to the camp explaining to the varsity players what their role is. They must bring a high level of energy, must learn the names of the young players, and must interact with them in a positive and encouraging way. Unfortunately, most high school kids will not understand this on their own, and many will tend to expend as little energy as possible if allowed.
The final benefit of a quality camp is that it can serve as a key fundraiser for the varsity program. With today’s school budget issues, fundraising is essential to run a high quality program. What better way to raise funds than to run a camp and gain all the benefits listed above. Anywhere from $80 to $125 per week is a reasonable for a good camp. As interest is built in a program and participation increases, this can raise significant money to be used for the program. There will be cost for things like insurance, T-shirts, prizes and coaches wages, but there is still room for significant profits to be earned. The head coach will need to work closely with the school district administration, as different districts have different fundraising policies and procedures. Again, as discussed in an earlier blog, working effectively with school administrators is an important element in running a high school basketball program.
The last item I might suggest for running a successful camp would be to consider running a camp store. At the store the campers can buy snacks and drinks during certain times of the day. Parents can but money in the “bank” for a player to start the week and the player can then make purchases throughout the camp. This adds an element of fun to the camp, as players love to go to the store and buy something. It also can be a considerable fundraiser. Over the course of a larger camp, I have experienced a profit up to $1,000.
As you can see, there are many benefits to running a good summer basketball camp for your program. Take the time and efforts to make it a top notch event. Providing excellence in everything you do for the program is important, and a summer camp should not be an exception to that rule.