Feb 012011

     As kids age their interests change and the types of summer camps they choose can evolve as well.  When it comes to sports, day camps are often the rule for younger tweens.  However, by the time a dedicated athlete is 12 or 13 years old he or she has often exhausted the possibilities close to home and starts to look at overnight camps for the next challenge.  Younger tweens may want a recreational sports camp as an alternative to more rustic overnight options.

     Unlike traditional summer camps, where many campers return annually until they get too old (and then come back as counselors) overnight sports camps typically target different skill levels and age groups for different sessions.  Sports camps can vary widely in terms of physical and emotional intensity.  What is right for an elite athlete who works out year round would be a confidence shattering disaster for a recreational player who is just thinking about trying to take it up a notch.

          For those who are new to selecting summer overnight sports camps here are seven tips to consider:

  1. Book family trips first:  most families with teens and tweens need to squeeze family vacations, college visits, summer jobs, and overnight camps into just a couple of summer months.  If you live in the Northeast, you have probably already lost a week of summer vacation to snow days that will have to be made up in June.   We have learned to set priorities by blocking the time for family trips first, then, fit in the camps around those plans.  We’ve seen too many friends sign their kids up for so many divergent camp commitments that there was no time left for a family vacation. 
  2. Decide  early if the teen wants to go with a friend or travel solo:  If your athlete has a good friend and teammate with a similar skill level it can be a great experience to attend a challenging camp together.  On the other hand, many camps house players of similar levels together since they will be rotating through the various camp sessions on the same schedule.  Some camps even refuse roommate requests because they want to make sure kids make the effort to engage with other campers.  If the friends have widely different skill levels they might not see much of one another as most camp activities will be grouped by skill levels based on assessments made on the first day.   Some kids prefer to go solo and make new friends at camp.  If your teen is planning to sign up for camp with a friend find out if the camp will honor roommate requests and try to determine if the kids will get to be together for at least some of the activities.  Deciding early about bringing a friend allows you to evaluate camps based on their roommate and teammate assignment policies, if those are important to you.  It also makes it a lot easier to coordinate schedules.  Last summer we found exactly one week that worked for the princess and her hockey playing buddy to go to the camp they both wanted.
  3. Check out the coaching credentials:  Ask around at the rink or the field to find out what a particular camp experience is really like.  Most camp brochures promise big skill improvements, amazing workouts and great experiences but take a closer look at who will be working with your kid.  Many camps are run by someone well known in their sport – but the star may not always spend a lot of time with the campers.  Check to see what the mix of pro, college, prep school and  high school coaches and assistants really is.  Often the camps with the most popular pro players on the marquee are very recreational and rely on a lot of student helpers.  By comparison, the intense camps meant for highly skilled athletes are often staffed by college or prep school coaches assisted by Division 1 college players.   If you are hoping a camp experience will help your player get recruited for a college or prep school team, be sure the coaches you want to impress will be there.   Also recognize that different camp weeks may feature different player skill levels or skill development focus areas.  These  might impact your thoughts about coaching credentials as well.
  4. Match the intensity level to your player’s current needs:  Be realistic about your player’s skills and the amount of physical activity they will enjoy.  Are they scared or excited about 3 or 4 hours of skating and 2 or 3 hours of dryland workouts daily — plus the lectures and film reviews that are expected at some camps?   Would they rather have evenings reserved for fun times or field trips, or do they want to keep exercising after dinner?
  5. Realistically evaluate how well your teen or tween handles stress and disappointment.  Many recreational overnight sports camps put a big emphasis on fun and keeping stress levels down (did you know for example there is an ice hockey camp in Rhode Island where the kids go surfing every afternoon!)  More competitive camps, however, can be very emotionally challenging and stress inducing.  Players may get moved up or down levels.  Some camps could actually be tryouts to get selected for even more advanced camps.  How will your teen feel if he or she doesn’t make the cut? If they see it as an opportunity to test themselves then go for it, but if it is just going to stress them out look for something else.
  6. Make sure you are comfortable with the level of supervision provided in the dorms.  We’ve been surprised at how variable sports camp supervision can be in the dorms or hotel.  Some camps use prep school or college dorms and sports facilities and rely on older teens to navigate their way around campus pretty much on their own.  Some dorms may not be locked during the day.  Other camps assign multiple counselors to small groups of kids and never let them out of their sight.  They won’t even let the kids have the keys to their own rooms so they can’t sneak in unsupervised.  At night,  some camps may have just one or two supervisors per dorm floor while others may have paid overnight security guards or tape the dorm doors to make sure no one goes sleep walking.  Many camps have a no cell phone policy which could make it hard if you are the type of parent who wants to check in regularly.  Go with your gut and pick an environment where you feel comfortable about your child’s safety.
  7. Leave some downtime in between the return from camp and starting the next adventure.  Kids come home from most overnight camps exhausted, but, this is particularly true for sports camps that work them really hard from sun up to past dark.  Plus, you never know if the kid will come home sick with something picked up in a dorm.  Save yourself the disappointment of spending a long planned family vacation cooped up in a hotel room because your teen is too sick to have fun.  We try to allow at least a week in between returning  from an overnight camp and scheduling another big adventure. 

     This will be our third year making decisions about sleep away ice hockey camps.  Each year, the right choice for the hockey princess has been different as she has gotten physically stronger, become more skilled and continued to raise her goals.  Her first overnight hockey camp was an inspiring but fun  recreational camp coached by Olympic athletes.  The next year, it was a skills development camp that required competitive tryouts and recommendations.  This year, we are still debating the right choices given our schedule, budget and her current level of hockey aspirations.  Whever she goes, we know she’ll give it all she’s got!

Aug 182010


Summer Camps - helping kids grow up

     In her recent New York Times Magazine article, What is it About 20-Somethings?”  Robin Marantz Henig discusses the trend towards more and more 20-Somethings moving back home, delaying entry into a fully independent life, and turning to their parents for housing and financial support for much longer than many parents anticipated.  Reading this was enough to make Mary T choke on her coffee, as she and Camera Guy have lots of plans for life after our kids become 20-Somethings.  You can be sure those plans don’t  include doing the kids’  laundry and paying their rent.

     It also reminded us why we think teen travel, with family and on their own, is a great way to get those teens ready to launch.  When teens travel with family, they learn a lot about different living conditions and options and develop an appreciation for the world outside their hometown.  We hope, it encourages them to get out of the house and explore as they get older.

Roughing it means having to clean your own cabin

     However,  its the travel that teens do without parents that is likely to have the bigger influence on the pace at which they embrace independence in their early to mid 20s.   We know a couple of weeks of camp every summer isn’t the whole answer, but the increases we see in our kids’ levels of maturity and responsibility when they come back after a couple of weeks away are pretty profound.

     For Hockeyprincess, a series of sleep away hockey and general outdoor camps has made her summer a heaven on earth.  The letters home can barely contain her jubilation over making new friends, learning new skills, testing and exceeding her limits, and operating as an independent person without the  parental units commenting or controlling.  For #1 Son, service trips and a church pilgrimage had a similar effect.  Having a summer job to come back to at home didn’t hurt either in terms of promoting a sense of autonomy.

Saying goodbye at Camp means saying hello to self-reliance

     For mom and dad, these times when teens are at camps or on service trips are a preview of the Empty Nest to come.   On one hand, we are thrilled at how he or she is growing as a person everyday.  The improvements we see in terms of their levels of independence and self-reliance give us hope they will eventually become productive members of society.  On the downside, we can see childhood slipping away and we look back at the baby and toddler pictures with joy and a bit of sorrow that those days are gone for good.

     So, with mixed emotions, we cheer our kids on their journeys to independence as they walk off to join their camp friends.  And, we remind ourselves that in a few years we would much rather have independent, confident young adults who can take care of themselves in the world (and visit us once in a while) than have to deal with overly dependent, tentative kids who are happy to live in our basement.  Mom and dad have lots of plans for after the teens are out on their own — to our mind, summer camp and other types of independent teen travels help them on their way.

     How has your teen’s time away had an impact?  Let us know.

Kids with Disabilities Can Play Fenway Park

 Posted by on June 14, 2010  Comments Off
Jun 142010


Welcome to Fenway Park

Welcome to Fenway Park

Our readers know we love Boston’s Fenway Park and many a New England little leaguer dreams of someday playing baseball in the shadow of the green monster.   For kids with disabilities and special needs those dreams seem pretty unattainable, but, thanks to the 6th annual CVS Caremark All Kids Can Baseball Camps program at Fenway Park, many New England children with disabilities will get to take part in an action-packed, dream-fulfilling experience playing ball and getting batting tips from Red Sox Batting Coach Dave Magadan.

     If you coach or know of a New England baseball team for children with disabilities you are invited to nominate the team to participate in one of these 1-day camps which run throughout the summer.  Visit this link for the CVS Caremark All Kids Can Baseball Camps information page and nominate your team ASAP as all decisions will be made no later than June 30.

     Each team that is selected for a camp will receive the following for a total of 20 participants:

  • Hitting tips and instruction in the Red Sox batting tunnel with Red Sox Batting Coach Dave Magadan
  • On-field batting practice with Coach Magadan
  • A walk around the Warning Track for a team photo with Coach Magadan in front of The Green Monster
  • Photo and autograph opportunity with Coach Magadan in the Red Sox dugout
  • Boxed lunches and gift bags in the Red Sox dugout
  • A VIP tour of Fenway Park
  • Early entry to pre-game Red Sox batting practice
  • Tickets to game in the CVS/pharmacy Family section

    In the spirit of full disclosure, I wrote this blog post while participating in the TwitterMoms and CVS Caremark blogging program to be eligible to win a $50 gift card. For more information on how you can participate, click here.  But frankly, the program is just an added benefit as this is a great cause for a great bunch of kids.