How to Choose a Lacrosse Camp
Choosing the right lacrosse camp can get confusing given the number of
alternatives out there. Often choosing the right camp is an easy decision once
you take the simple step of deciding what you expect to get out of a camp.
Whatever your objective, make sure that the camp takes the proper steps to
ensure safety (both on and off the field) and is well organized. Ask questions
about instructor screening, and training. Talk to friends who have gone to the
camp in the past and keep in mind that often, everything goes well; it’s the
handling of the unlikely occasion when something goes wrong that you want to
feel comfortable about.
If you are a brand new player looking to learn lacrosse for the first time, the
simple rule of thumb is to make it easy on yourself. From cost, to travel distance,
to time commitment and your schedule, pick a camp or clinic that fits. As a first
experience, your player will probably decide pretty quickly whether this is their
sport or not. Make sure that the instructors are good role models and are happy
to be working with kids. Look for camps with instructors who have coached
and/or played at a high level. They will know how to avoid teaching techniques
that lead to “bad habits” which are harder to correct later on. Ask if there is a
curriculum or training progression that has been thought through. Many camps
just throw a bunch of drills out without thinking about the steps that lead to
success. Beware of soccer/football/basketball/baseball people who read a book
about lacrosse. Try to stick with a camp that is not a full day camp, but provides
instruction for an hour or two since there’s plenty to absorb and work on when
learning something new.
Most of our questions come from more experienced players who are looking for a
camp that does a couple of things: 1) Really generates performance
improvement (a serious camp) and 2) exposes the player to a high level of
competition. After talking with a number of players who have tried various
camps, we’ve concluded that many rely on a number of marketing techniques
that are designed to lure you into thinking that you’re getting a high level of
instruction and competition. Many of our customers have traveled to the East
Coast in search of the “magic bullet” camp, only to return disappointed. With that
having been said, here are some thoughts to consider.
Big Name Coaches: Often these coaches are used as a draw to attract players.
It is not unusual for the name coach to make a brief appearance, meet and greet
the students, and offer some pointers. If you think Mr. Big Coach is going to
work with little Johnny personally each day, you are sadly mistaken. Some
coaches run their own camp, and we’re confident that they put together
reasonably good programs for lacrosse instruction; we know of no camp that has
a unique teaching methodology or breakthrough way of getting results.
Remember that running one of these camps requires lots of staff, and it is college
players, for the most part that populate the coaching staffs at most of these
camps. A good lacrosse camp is one in which the structure, curriculum, and
agenda has been thoroughly developed and in which the instructors are
knowledgeable, high-caliber players that are positive and serve as good role
Big Name Schools: Going to a camp at a big name school does not mean that
you will be recruited by them. Usually the camp at the big name school is led by
the big name coach as described above.
East Coast Competition: Kids from the East Coast do not generally go to camps
(except recruiting camps as discussed later). What do they do? They play
lacrosse all summer, and go to tournaments. Most of the kids you’ll find at the
high profile camps out East are kids from other parts of the country who are
going there also in search of the “magic bullet”.
The Schedule: You have 200 kids at an overnight camp for a week. What are
you going to do with them? There are film reviews, a scrimmage, breaks,
swimming, breakfast, lunch, dinner, and usually a movie. If you are looking for a
week away from home and an opportunity to be with friends (and not parents)
and see a new place, these camps provide a great opportunity for a vacation.
You’ll probably get 3-4 hours of lacrosse instruction per day; the rest will be
“filler” activity. Try to figure out how much you’re paying for entertainment and
supervision and how much you’re paying for lacrosse. If you go into the camp
with the idea that it is as much about a vacation as it is lacrosse, you’ll be fine.
Recruiting Camps: There are more and more recruiting camps popping up every
day. They are driving many college coaches crazy, because it is becoming too
hard to keep up with them all. Recruiting camps are appropriate for high school
juniors and exceptional sophomores. If you are serious, it’s probably right to start
attending your sophomore year (going into 11th grade in Fall), so that you know
what the drill is. The most popular camps are Top 205, Champ Camp, Blue Chip
100, Top Star, and a handful of others. The big ones (Top 205 and Champ
Camp) each are attended by more than 500 players. Getting noticed requires an
extraordinary effort at any of these. The big recruiting schools with big recruiting
budgets all monitor top high school players and compete with one another to
attract them. These players have been courted from the day the NCAA says it is
legal to do so. Being recruited to a Johns Hopkins, Virginia, or Syracuse is
definitely possible, but not by simply showing up and performing well at one of
these camps. We are happy to advise our customers about recruiting and
recruiting camps and even offer preparation should you choose to attend.
Focus Camps: There are many things a good lacrosse player must be able to do
well, and there are specific skills that are required of each position in lacrosse.
At any given camp a player can expect to get a little work on ground balls,
passing and catching, dodging, shooting, defensive play, and so forth. This is
appropriate for a player who is in early and intermediate developmental stages of
the game. For advanced players, it is important that you make an honest
assessment of your strengths and weaknesses. Once you have done that, look
for a camp or clinic that focuses on the skill you most need to improve, e.g.
speed and agility, shooting, one-on-one play.
In summary, the choice of lacrosse camps in the U.S. right now is dizzying.
Many of the camps are seasonal since they represent an opportunity for coaches
and players to make additional income over summer break, and weather plays a
role in the availability of locations for camps. Companies that are in the lacrosse
instruction business all year round may devote more thought and attention to
program development and can offer continuity of instruction and familiarity with
the student. If you start with your honest expectations of a camp and research
the camp carefully and ask questions, you are more likely to be satisfied at the
end and get the most value for your money.