Are you considering starting up a youth basketball camp for the children in your area?
While it is not always an easy task, if we take the time to learn from each other, we can be sure that each youth basketball camp that we run becomes even better than the year before.
From years of running camps, making many mistakes, as well as talking with other coaches and sharing experiences, here some key lessons learned by doing:
1. Bring the energy!
You and your staff will be the ones mostly working with camp attendees. The energy you and your team bring are vital to the experience the kids have. Being engaging, personable, responsible and enthusiastic will take their camp from a good experience to a great experience. Bring it!
2. Use good basketball coaches!
This could go with out saying, but the point cannot be emphasized enough: The quality of basketball coaches that you bring in will make or break the success of your camp.
Just like you and your staff, your coaches must bring the same or better level of energy and enthusiasm you and your staff do from point one. Hire as many current and former college and professional players as possible. This should actually be #1 on the list. HIRE GOOD COACHES!
3. Be prepared, be organized.
This tip seems to be a real no-brainer, but you would be completely surprised at how fast the organization of your camp can fall through the cracks. For example, one time a company had promised to give each player a note of evaluation at the end of camp. Well, parents sat and sat… and players waited and waited… and no notes came. It left them with a poor experience and needless to say, that never happened again. Be prepared. Mistakes will be made and but can be mitigated by being prepared. Prepare your staff for what to do when something does go wrong. After the camp, go over what worked and what didn’t with your team. As coaches we teach it’s vital to learn from our mistakes to keep improving. We must do the same.
4. Utilize both free play and structure.
Of course, at a learning camp you are going to need to utilize structure… however, do not forget how important a little freedom can be to kids who are looking forward to enjoying themselves with new friends. The coaches should rely on drills, skills, games and lessons but they also give the kids at camp plenty of room to get out there on their own and have some fun out on the court together without any structure in place.
5. Appreciate the good kids.
When coaching youth basketball at camp or at school you don’t really get to choose, or really even know, what you are getting personality wise with kids. While it is out of your control to choose only “good kids”, positive reinforcement goes a long way and be sure to set clear rules on how campers are expected to act.
6. Give away prizes and run giveaways.
Kids (and even adults) always respond better to prizes and will work exceptionally hard to get those prizes. If you can inspire your kids to do an even better job than before… then why not offer a few prizes to the best free thrower, the best defense and even the most improved? Giveaways are also awesome too because this gives kids who may not be excelling as quickly as other kids a chance to win something that they can take home with them after camp is over with.
*Helpful hint: While you are going to want to give away basketballs, think along the lines of gift cards too. Kids absolutely love gift cards and the freedom to buy what they want. You can also work with local sports stores in the area to for other great giveaways.
As you gear up to start your own youth basketball camp, remember that even the pros have their snafus now and then. While it will take a time to get it all right, you will. It takes intention and imagination to be sure that you are not only capturing the attention of your kids, having fun and teaching but also capturing their hearts. When their hearts are in on the game… you will have done your job and you won’t have to work quite as hard to have a great camp.
Following these keys learned over the years will help you grow your camp year over year as you provide a great atmosphere, a great learning opportunity and an overall great experience for the kids and the parents that bring them. Good luck!