From beginner to elite, there are a variety of local summer sports camps to help your child learn new skills, make lifelong friendships and participate in lots of hands-on fun.
Many sports camps welcome children of all skill levels and have special techniques to help your beginner learn the fundamentals of the game and set the foundation for a lifelong passion of playing sports.
Pam Frasco, of Avon Lake, has signed up her son Sonny for some small camps with Preschool Sports/LCSC Youth Sports since he was 3 years old.
“It’s a great way to introduce socialization and teamwork,” she says. “Now that he is 6, he is great at listening to directions and working as a team. Learning what it means to be a teammate is so important in life, sports is a fun way to help teach kids how to share, help one another out and begin the foundation of learning skills.”
Game On! Sports 4 Girls camp owner Barb Lazarus adds that it’s very important that beginner athletes are exposed to sports in a supportive environment with encouraging coaches and mentors.
“We teach them to play multiple sports with exposure to role models and an attention to the concept of ‘team,’” Lazarus explains. “Every Game On girl experiences growth as an athlete and a person with a sense of what it means to feel empowered, confident, proud and ‘girl strong.’”
Sports camp isn’t just about learning the game; it also teaches sportsmanship and being part of a team.
“A big emphasis of our organization is sportsmanship values,” explains Brock Malinowski, program director of i9 Sports for Cuyahoga and Medina Counties, which offers summer flag football, soccer, tee-ball and indoor basketball for athletes of all skill levels. “We want kids to have a great time and be active and build their fundamental skills in their sport, but we also want them to have those sportsmanship values. So they learn new skills, but they also walk away thinking about courtesy and how to make a better experience for themselves and their teammates.”
Heights United Soccer Academy Director Sean Sullivan says intermixing skilled players with the newbies provides an opportunity for the older children to serve as mentors, while the inexperienced children have an opportunity to build confidence while learning to play the game.
“We all get together in the afternoon and we form these super league teams with kids who have never played before, kids with some experience and kids who are at a very high skill level,” explains Sullivan. “The teams rotate and play against one another. The older kids know they have to pass the ball and include the kids who have never played before, and those kids who are new to the game can get out there and learn how it’s played.”
Train like a Pro
While your child will likely get to participate in some sporting activities at a regular day camp, a sports camp can provide more targeted lessons to help your child achieve their athletic goals.
“Our content is taken from what our guys do in practice and what you see in the game,” says Kendall Chones, head coach of Cavs Academy. “We have good relationships with the coaching staff and player development staff, so if there’s a nice shooting drill that Kevin Love is doing in practice, I’m going to pull it and modify it and the kids are going to learn it.”
At sports camps, highly trained coaches and counselors are on hand to help athletes build upon their skills and learn new techniques.
“Our coaching staff has played the sport that they’re coaching either professionally, or at a very high level in college,” says John Ptacek, director of sports camps at University School. “They’re all professional coaches, so they’ve gone through all of the state and national certifications in their sport and they go through professional training regularly.”
Sports camps promote physical activity, social skills and a healthy lifestyle.
“We teach life lessons through sports, which are very vital to the next stages of life,” says Ptacek.
Camp organizers add that they can see children become more confident as they progress through camp, which translates into success in the school year.
“I’m also a teacher and you can really see kids come out of their shell as they participate in sports,” Sullivan adds. “They’re raising their hands in the classroom, they’re taking more risks.”
Kids also make friends and learn to play on a team.
“Sports has always been one of the few areas where we can all come together from all walks of life,” Chones adds. “Boys and girls, young and old, poor and rich— to reach a common goal — and that’s to win and have fun.”
“It’s important for kids to explore sports at a young age because they teach healthy living skills that last a life time,” says Charity Butch, Lorain County Executive Director at French Creek Family YMCA in Avon. “Most importantly they teach our children about team work, cooperation and resilience.”
Wondering if Your Child can Physically Handle a Sports Camp this Summer?
Dr. Sean Cupp, co-director of Sports Medicine at University Hospitals Cleveland Medical Center and lead medical team physician for the Cleveland Browns, says most kids should be able to endure a few active hours at camp with no issues.
“Unless they have a baseline orthopedic problem or baseline medical problem, then most kids are healthy and should be able to handle any physical activity, even 6-8 hours at a sports camp,” he says.
Before you send your child off to camp, Cupp recommends packing a refillable water bottle and a healthy snack.
“Water is the best fluid for replacement for any activity that’s 60 minutes,” he says. “If they are participating in a continuous activity that’s greater than one hour, then it is recommended to give them some type of sports drink with some electrolytes or protein. For most camps, a water bottle is the best thing to send. You definitely want to pack a healthy snack: an apple, an orange, a banana — something that their stomach will tolerate.”
He says you also can pack a protein bar for teens participating in more intense camps.
Lastly, make sure the camp is aware of any medical conditions your child may have and pack proper allergy and emergency medications.
“If they have any baseline medical problems, such as asthma or bronchial spasms, then they definitely want to bring an inhaler,” Cupp says. “If they have allergies to bees or any environmental allergies that they could be exposed to, they want to take their EpiPen. For seasonal allergies, instead of having them take an antihistamine, you might want to look into a nasal steroid. An antihistamine can cause dehydration.”
He says healthy children should participate in at least 60 minutes of active play a day.