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Choosing the Best Soccer Camp

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In addition to helping develop your child’s skills and understanding of the game, summer camps are extremely valuable for young players to develop socially. Children have to learn how to separate from their families and become resilient and independent learners. Attending a summer soccer camp gives them a safe way to take safe first steps towards this goal.

Whether it is a day camp or a residential camp, the experience broadens your child’s life experiences and often taps resources they have never had to call on before.  Camp pushes children out of their comfort zone and exposes them to new ideas, new activities and new experiences that they may not be familiar with. Players get the opportunity to experience different styles of coaching, different forms of motivation, and can explore new areas of their game without the fear of making a mistake.

To become happy, successful adults, children need certain social skills to develop positive relationships with others. The camp environment can help children build these skills and encourages them to communicate, to work together as part of a team, to talk freely to each other, and also provides opportunities for them to take on leadership roles and even try to be a new kind of person for that week.

The best camp operators provide players with the opportunity to receive a week of great coaching in a positive atmosphere from someone with a real passion for the game.  At the same time the child is immersed in an environment of learning where they are forced to communicate with people who are new to them. They are forced to be responsible and must develop independence quickly, needing to be in the right place at the right time, with the correct equipment and then must follow instructions from a new coach. As a result the child takes on responsibilities that they often do not have at school or home and they elevate their listening skills, reasoning and performance levels to impress their new coach and new friends.

The world needs our children to grow up to be more tolerant of each other’s views, ideology, and beliefs. Attending a camp provides an opportunity for children to be exposed to campers and coaches from other cultures and socio economic backgrounds, and these coaches will not only teach skills, but will also become role models and show your child how to have fun, learn from others, communicate, and make friends.

It is not always easy for parents to make the decision to send their child away into the waiting arms of strangers who promise to take care of them, make them better players and to develop them as individuals. Day camps are a good starting point for young players. They learn about being part of a new community and cope with temporary separation.  They’re not only a good transitional step for kids but also for parents, who often need to learn these same separation skills!

As parents, our hopes and jobs are to ready our kids to be productive, independent, and capable people — to prepare them to thrive without us. Camp offers a way for kids to start developing those skills in a safe and controlled environment.

But with so many camps to choose from it is extremely difficult for parents to really know which would be the best camp program for their child. Here is a list of the most common camps that you will come across.

LOCAL DAY CAMPS – Beginner to Intermediate These types of camps are typically run by local recreational facilities and often have high school aged staff with little or no qualifications or experience. 
GOAL: FUN, DAY CARE, PLAY

CLUB CAMPS – beginner to advanced These types of camps are run by local soccer organizations who in addition to providing technical training, will often use the camps to help support the finances of their club. 
GOAL: REVENUE, CLUB CULTURE, DEVELOPMENT

COMMUNITY CAMPS – Beginner to Intermediate These camps are run by specialist camp providers who recruit and train staff specifically to work on camps with youth players of all ages and abilities. 
GOAL: SKILL DEVELOPMENT, FUN, PERSONAL GROWTH

SPECIALIZED CAMPS – Intermediate to Advanced These camps provide an opportunity for position specific training, advanced technical training, or dedicated speed and agility training. 
GOAL: TECHNICAL, TACTICAL, PHYSICAL DEVELOPMENT

RESIDENTIAL/OVERNIGHT CAMPS – Intermediate to Advanced Camps like these are typically for older, more advanced, players who are provided meals, and accommodation, and have higher level coaches, normally at University sites. GOAL: TECHNICAL AND TACTICAL DEVELOPMENT

COLLEGE RECRUITING CAMPS – Advanced to Elite Camps hosted by College coaches that have a dual role of generating revenue for the program or coach, and also to help with player recruitment. 
GOAL: TALENT ID,  TACTICAL DEVELOPMENT, COLLEGE EDUCATION

COLLEGE ID CAMPS – Advanced to Elite Camps held by a club or outside operator that bring college coaches in to evaluate the players in a competitive and challenging environment. 
GOAL: SHOWCASE TALENT, COLLEGE EDUCATION

Whether it is a day camp, overnight camp, High School or College camp, there are some questions that we think every parent should ask:

How much time do the owners or camp directors devote to the camp?
Is it a full-time pursuit or do they simply spend a few weeks a year on it?
Who are the coaches?
How are the soccer coaches selected?
What licenses or certification do they possess?
Has every coach undergone a police background check?
Do the soccer coaches receive any training or orientation prior to the start of camp?
Do they have a printed curriculum for each age group within the program?Do they have clear policies and procedures for Child Protection and Good Practice?
Do they have general liability and workers compensation coverage?
Do they have any participant accident coverage?
What is the ratio of campers to coaches?
Do they have a documented first aid and emergency plan?
What is the refund policy?

Whichever camp you choose, you should be prepared to do some research before committing to them. Search the web for reviews and ask for, and contact references to get a full picture of how they are viewed in the wider camp community.

We firmly believe that camps of all variety play an important role in the life of a child and we know from first hand experience that coaches and campers alike have many special memories associated with their time at their camp. Very often these experiences have shaped their love for the game and have helped them become the person they are today.

Peter Arch Co-Founder of Challenger Sports Corporation.