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Volleyball Camps: How to Choose

posted Jun 6, 2015, 8:18 PM by Debbie Sokol   [ updated Jun 6, 2015, 8:49 PM ]

It’s nearly volleyball camp season, the time of year when parents will send their kids off on a two, three, four or five day journey to play volleyball for likely 12 hours a day. Kids believe that if they go to these volleyball camps, they will be able to make the high school varsity team, maybe even a starting position, which will eventually lead them to play for the college of their dream. For parents, some camps are as much as $1,500. What is the reality? What should be expected? What is the best camp for your child?

There are a great number of excellent camps across the country. Your child should be excited about the opportunity to play volleyball on the same court as those collegiate athletes they admire. They will likely even have a chance to learn from their favorite players and hear the expectations of the coaches at the school they are visiting. Many camps offer overnight stays at the actual dorms of the players so you’ll get a real, college-like atmosphere. Volleyball camps are a great opportunity for your child to grow as a volleyball player and as an individual. Check out Volleyball Magazine's 2015 Camp Guide and while you're there, notice the photo credit for Sokol Volleyball!

To choose the best camp for your child, there are many factors to consider. The basics:

Child’s Age

For younger children, I highly recommend your child accompany friends to a camp, especially their first camp. Often times, camps are as much a social gathering as it is a volleyball learning experience. If a group of parents want to send their children to camp and are unsure what camp, ask for recommendations from a local volleyball club director or high school coach. I also recommend a day camp, one that is local (if possible) in which your child will play during the day and return home at night. In larger cities, volleyball clubs and some high schools will host their own camps. This is a great introduction to camps. Most collegiate programs offer a large variety of camps, check online to learn if it is a day camp or overnight camp (or both).

Child’s Realistic Playing Ability

At the higher age groups (14 – 18), playing ability and experience often override age as a determining factor for a camp. If your child is 14 and is attending camp for the first time, I would not recommend signing them up for the Advanced Camp – even if your child played on the varsity team as a freshman for their small high school in Rural City, USA. No offense, but your child may be a big fish in a small pond, especially if your child has never played club volleyball. Sending your child to the Advanced Camp might be overwhelming, intimidating, and scare them away from the game. The ultimate goal of camps is for your child to learn and to have fun. If you are not sure the level of your child, do not hesitate to contact the camp director. Be honest about your child’s experience and the camp director will find the best fit for your child.

Type of Volleyball Camp

Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Skills, Setters Camp, Libero Camp, Outside Hitters Camp, Middle Hitters Camp, Team Camp, etc. For first time campers, the basic camp is best. For those players with club volleyball experience, more than one camp is often recommended. An Intermediate or Advanced Camp for intense training and playing is great for all around skills with a group of players that you are unfamiliar (advanced camps sometimes require informal invitations). The unfamiliarity will help you learn to adapt to new styles and create new ideas. A Skills Camp is recommended for specialization of a particular skill. As USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal says, “Greater specialization always equals greater success.” The third camp is a Team Camp. This is usually a high school team that will train together for a number of days followed up by a tournament at the last day or two of camp. Contact your local high school coach to learn how to get involved.

Location of the Volleyball Camp

The best camp location is at the college(s) your child would one day like to play collegiate volleyball. As an incoming freshman to high school, it is seriously time to start considering colleges. At most Division I universities, especially the elite universities, scholarships have already been offered and accepted by high school juniors and seniors. College coaches are looking at high school sophomores and freshman to offer scholarships. No joke. One of the best ways to get the attention of these college coaches is to attend a camp of the college your child might want to attend.

Your child will likely have a few schools in mind. Attend camps at different colleges. Maybe an Intermediate Level Camp at a “stretch” or elite Division I school and an Individual Skills Camp at a “safety” school (a school your child can attend based academics and all-around fit for your child). Again, be realistic of your child’s playing ability.

Cost of the Camp

USA Volleyball offers elite and A2 camps, Karch Kiraly offers a camp, Bill Neville (USA Gold Medal Coach) offers a camp, Gold Medal Squared offers a camp, Pat Powers (USA Player) offers a camp, the list goes on. Why do these great players and coaches run volleyball camps? Yes, for the love of the game, but also to make money. I know of a great wrestling coach that has a multi-million dollar a year camp empire. I cannot comment on the experience at these camps, but often times coaches from many different colleges work at these camps. I am willing to bet they are first class operations, but they can get expensive too. If you are considering one of these camps, do your homework. Check the camp’s website and contact the camp director to have the following questions answered:

Questions to Ask About Camps

  • Will the head coach, assistant coach, recruiting coordinator be attending the camp and if so, how long will they be in attendance? How involved will the coaches be with the camp? What is the realistic expectation of my child working with or being noticed by the coaches?
  • Will there be coaches from other colleges attending the camp, if so what colleges?
  • Who will actually be running the camp (a college coach, the players, or club coach perhaps)?
  • Will the players of the college be coaching at the camp? If so, how many of those players (sometimes players are home on summer break)? Ex-players?
  • What is the player/coach ratio of the camp?
  • How many courts and how many players per court? Will my child have an opportunity to play on the main court? Are all courts on the college campus?
  • How are groups of players determined? How often are groups changed? Are players rotated throughout groups?
  • How many hours a day will they play? Are there extra-curricular activities, such as swimming or time at the beach?
  • Is a trainer on-site for emergencies? What is the emergency policy? What happens if my child get sick? What is the refund policy of the camp?
  • Are meals provided or do they cost extra? What type of meals are provided?
  • If it is an overnight camp, where will my child stay? How many players per room? How are they chaperoned? Is it a coed camp? What other sports camps will be going on at the same time? How are these camps kept separate, especially at night? Are the dorms for a single sex or is it just the floors? What type of security is provided? What are the boundaries and limitations?
  • Be sure to bring linens, towels, and toiletries to an overnight camp too.
  • Some players fly into camps. How are those players chaperoned when they arrive at the airport?
  • What local hotels are recommended? Is there an official camp hotel? How are players chaperoned at the hotel?
  • Be sure to learn the camp schedule ahead of time, possibly before signing up for camp.
  • If possible, talk to previous campers of their positive and negative experiences. If you do not know of any, ask the camp director for a few phone numbers of past attendees. Those parents will likely offer a slew of great information.

Volleyball camps offer a great variety of benefits to your child. Beyond the physical intensity of the days, your child will get insight to elite programs, learn a number of techniques and strategies, and interact with volleyball experts and likely players they look up to. Be realistic about the camp. If your child plays volleyball a couple months a year, do not expect them to come out playing like a superstar or for that matter, offered a scholarship. The best part about camp is that it is a social opportunity to be with friends, to make lifelong memories, and most importantly to have fun.

by Chuck Rey, Winthrop University
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