Electing to send a child to summer swim camp is a big decision for many families. There are certainly the costs to consider, and the quality of the camps. But what are the other considerations?
Your club coach may have some specific concerns that a family should think about before registering for camp. If the camp doesn't train very hard, the camper may actually come home out of shape. Other camps may teach the swimmer some drills and insist that if the swimmer just does the drills, they'll become national level swimmers.
This camp has de-emphasized the importance of training. Other camps may openly and actively disagree with the swimmer's coach, and cause tension and conflict between the home coach and the swimmer. A coach may also feel that a week of camp would interfere with preparation for an important meet.
These are all legitimate concerns a coach could have that families should think about before sending a child to camp. But there are some great reasons swimmers should go to camp, if not be ENCOURAGED by their teammates and coaches to go to swim camp for a week.
Sometimes, a swimmer will pick up a skill or pointer from someone else that their home coach hasn't been able to get across. I know Olympic coach Eddie Reese feels this way. That's why early in his seasons, he allows his swimmers to coach each other's strokes. I asked him why he does this. He says it's because he couldn't get a swimmer to make a stroke change - the swimmer didn't understand. Reese tried for weeks, until a teammate explained the same skill a different way, and the swimmer got it immediately. Reese has allowed other people to critique his athletes ever since.
Another great reasons is because some camps make resources available that club teams aren't able to for one reason or another. At Pine Crest, we make video coaching available, and produce personalized stroke DVD's. Not many club teams offer this service. We also have daily lectures and discussions. Because we're in a camp setting, we have full days to dedicate to swimming. In a club situation, it's hard to give up water time for classroom time. In classroom time, we can have discussions, watch videos, or really do anything.
The most important reason is simply that camps are fun! Don't forget that their swimmers are children. Young children whose peers often spend time at day camps or overnight camps and make new friends each summer. Swimming is known for the demands it puts on its athletes, but keep in mind these athletes are kids. Even the high-school aged senior swimmers. If a child swims 6 days a week, they may be spending more time with their coach and teammates than their other friends. They deserve at least a week a year to meet other people, see new faces, and recharge their batteries.
Here are some suggestions when you are considering swim camps:
- Decide what you want to get out of your camp.
- Are you mostly interested in stroke work?
- Do you want the stroke work balanced with training time?
- Do you mostly want a social camp where your child will have fun?
- Is there a college campus you want your child to see?
- Talk to other families that sent their children to camps.
- Did they have a good experience?
- Did it benefit their swimmer?
- Would they send their swimmer there again?
- Interview the camp staff over the phone or over email.
- What is their philosophy?
- Can they answer your questions and concerns?
- Find out who will coach your athlete.
- Talk to your club coach.
- If you know you want your child to attend a camp, ask your coach if there is a best time during the summer for your child to go.
- Has he or she had good experiences with swimmers attending certain camps?
- Or bad experiences with certain camps?
- A willing coach will look at the summer schedule and help find a good week or two.
About the author: Ryan Howard is a staff member with Pine Crest Swimming and Pinecrest Swim Camp in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.