Improving communities through sport

How to Run a Successful Sports Camp

Kids Baseball

Image courtesy of Eduardo Balderas on Unsplash

You might think that hitting your revenue goal is the indicator of success for your sports camp. And it’s great if that happens. However, the true indicator of success for a camp is whether you were able to create an experience that was fun for kids and easy for the parents. If you charge a high price for your camp and you get a few kids to sign up, you can easily hit your revenue goal. But when those kids get picked up by their parents after camp, if they aren’t raving about how great that camp experience was and how much they are looking forward to it next year, you aren’t going to see them at your camp next year. And if they aren’t coming back, they aren’t telling their friends about it. If they aren’t telling their friends about your camp, it is unlikely that you will be able to hit your revenue goals in subsequent years. You need to create an experience that will generate its own marketing every year when the kids convince their parents to sign them up the following year. Create an experience that gets the campers and their parents to tell their friends about it. But how do you do that?

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Easy and Efficient for Parents

The experience you provide kids at your camp is the most important aspect of the camp. But no matter how much fun a kid has at the camp, the parents won’t be around to see or experience that. Parents’ only experience with your camp will be the registration, drop-off, and pick-up process. You need to make each of those processes simple and man these areas with friendly and responsible people.  This will build trust with parents.

Registration needs to be easy but thorough. There should be a section where parents can provide information on dietary restrictions or medical conditions so that the parents know that you are aware of the condition and are taking it into consideration. Prior to the start of the camp, provide clear drop-off and pick-up instructions. And when the camp is in session, use signage to clearly indicate where those areas are. It is helpful to outfit your coaches with branded shirts so that the parents can easily identify them and know who to bring their kid(s) to as well as who to talk to if they have questions or concerns.

Fun and Beneficial to the Kids

There are plenty of ways to make camp fun, and we will cover that later in this section, but the fun must be balanced with skill progression. If your camp spans multiple days, you want there to be a noticeable change in the level of play on the last day versus the first. The first day of the camp should start with a skill evaluation so that the coaches can begin to split the kids up into groups. You can also start out by splitting up the groups by age and then make adjustments later if necessary. Splitting the kids up is beneficial for their progression and beneficial to the coaches. We recommend that each coach works with a group of no more than 8-10 kids at a time. That number can change based on the age and maturity level of the kids at the camp, with older kids being trusted with larger groups and younger kids being in smaller groups. Once split up, each coach should run a station that teaches/practices a skill to their group. After running the drill for around 15 minutes, the groups should rotate to a new coach where they will run through a new drill. Once each group of campers has been to every coach’s station it is time to take a break or move on to the next activity you have planned.

Now onto the fun part, literally. Drills are great for building up a solid foundation, but drills are usually boring. Once the campers run through the drills you should then switch to a fun activity to keep them entertained and interested. This can be something unrelated to the sport like a water balloon fight, or you can create fun activities or scenarios that will be fun but still help them improve in their sport. In a lacrosse camp I attended as a kid, the coaches prepared a large cooler full of water balloons that were close to the size of a lacrosse ball that the coaches and campers would pick up and throw at each other with their lacrosse sticks. It was a water balloon fight, plain and simple, but since we were using our sticks to pick up and throw the balloons, we were still practicing our techniques and accuracy without feeling like we were going through a drill. There are millions of ways to make drills fun or to instill lessons in a fun activity, and you can find them online or make them up on your own. However, incorporating water into your activities is a surefire way to get kids to forget about what they were doing and to help them cool down in the summer. And let your coaches get in on the fun as well. It is a good boost to their morale, and it is always exciting for the kids to get an opportunity to “get revenge” on the people that made them do drills earlier that day.

Lasting Memories and Merch

The fun activities you pepper into your programming should help solidify your camp into the kids’ memories. But, in addition to the fun, the best way to end a camp is to bring everyone together to practice what they have learned in a real game. Organize a tournament for the campers that will ignite their competitive drive and get them working on their newly acquired skills in an actual game. Make sure to organize more games or activities for the teams that lose in the early rounds of the tournament so that you don’t have a bunch of campers sitting on the sidelines for the last part of the camp. Once the tournament has concluded, it is a good time to hand out awards and camp merch. We recommend investing in high-quality merchandise to give to all the kids in attendance. If you supply the campers with good merch, the kids will likely wear that gear around town and to school, becoming little walking billboards for your next camp. And be sure to get extra gear in a different color or get branded equipment that you can hand out for any awards you give. If you know what awards you will be giving out ahead of time, you can get them printed onto the shirts or on a ball to give to the recipient. Be sure to have a set of balls or shirts with “Tournament Winner” or “Camp Champions” on them for the team that wins the tournament. The kids that win will have a great deal of pride in what they receive and anyone who didn’t win will hopefully be driven to get their hands on that merch at the next camp.

Sports camps are a great way for kids to improve their skills in their sport, better their social skills, increase their confidence, make friends, and get some exercise. Camps require a lot of planning and hard work but what they offer to parents and kids is invaluable. If you plan ahead, hire good coaches, implement fun activities, and ensure everyone has a great time, your camp will surely be successful every time you host it. If you are looking to put on a sports camp but don’t know of a good place to do it, check out our network of venues across the country. If we don’t have a venue in your area, it may be time to change that. The Sports Facilities Company doesn’t just manage venues, we can also help you to develop a facility in your area. If you are interested or want to learn more, give us a call at (727) 474-3845 or contact us here.

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