Is Summer Swim Camp Necessary?

emptypoolIt’s the time of year when swim parents are making decisions about whether or not to send their kids to camp. Sometimes a club coach will recommend a specific one, while other coaches feel it’s a waste of money. This can be very confusing.

Before you decided to commit several hundred dollars to a swim camp, let me tell you what we discovered over the last several years.

  • Camp is fun if you really love swimming. If your swimmer is passionate about the sport and enjoys practice and competing, then it will most likely be a positive experience. If your swimmer is lukewarm about the sport, save your money.
  • Maturity is a consideration. Camps list a minimum age requirement as a guideline. If you doubt your child’s ability to be self-sufficient or show the appropriate level of maturity then don’t send them. There’s always next year.
  • Research who will be coaching your child. One summer we sent our oldest to an elite camp that was several states away. We rented a house, took the entire family, and signed our swimmer up as a “commuter” camper. Pick-up in the evening allowed us time to interact with a few of the coaches, and imagine our surprise when they told us about their backgrounds, some of which did not involve swimming or coaching! Just because there is a flashy video, a high-profile person’s name affiliated with the camp, or it is held at a university that has achieved success, is not a guarantee your swimmer will be getting solid swim instruction.
  • Camp can fill an important void. Sometimes the quality of club coaches leaves something to be desired. This makes camp a good place to learn new techniques and drills or simply hear something explained in a different way. I remember a club coach repeating the same feedback to one of my children on a regular basis, yet my swimmer never made the change. Following summer camp I noticed the bad habit was gone. It turns out a camp coach used a funny analogy that really hit home.
  • Mental health break. Sometimes the atmosphere at a swim club is not healthy. From demanding coaches to ultra-competitive teammates, these things can have a negative impact on impressionable kids. Sometimes it is healthy for a swimmer to step away from their club for a while—without interrupting their training—so they can refocus on their goals.
  • Be realistic. There is only so much improvement a child can make in five days. Do not expect perfection or mastery of skills just because they attended a camp. Keep this in mind before you write the deposit check.
  • Age groupers. Personally, I think age groupers benefit from camp when they need a lot of fundamental corrections. Camp also gets them excited about taking their swimming to the next level, plants a seed about going to college, helps them develop social skills, and fosters independence.
  • High schoolers. A consistent training regimen and working with a club coach who already knows a swimmer’s strengths/weaknesses is valuable.  At this level, a swimmer is expected to be at practice every day and attending camp may be something a club coach won’t support. Keep this in mind because you want to avoid having a rift between the coach and swimmer. If you don’t know where they stand on this issue, just ask them!

So, will your kids be going to swim camp this summer?

Image courtesy of Salvatore Vuono at FreeDigitalPhotos.net

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