Goal keeper in action. (Youth game in Germany).
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In the last article I posted on “Types of Youth Soccer Camps” I indicated that there was more to be discussed on how to evaluate each type of camp. My associate, Katie, recently posted “How to Pick a Soccer Camp” back in April and provided great advice for youth to pick soccer camps depending on what they are looking to get out of the camp. With an excellent article already covering this topic, I will attempt to discuss how to evaluate the camps I mentioned in my last article regardless of what the athlete is looking to achieve from the camp. Hopefully, all of our articles combined will give the dedicated athlete willing to spend the time and money on soccer camps the best possible guidance regardless of what they are looking to gain from these camps.

Once an athlete has figured out what type of soccer camp they would like to attend and their reason for attending a camp, one must next take into consideration how to evaluate the quality of the camp. In order to choose the camp that’s best for the athlete, one must consider the challenge the camp will bring them, quality of faculty members, signs of reaching the allotted goal once the camp begins, and third party recommendations. These factors combined will help athletes and parents alike evaluate the quality of the soccer camp based on their specific reasoning for joining a camp.

First, looking at Katie’s article in addition to my previous article, one must consider the challenge the camp will bring them. The athlete must make sure that it is the right level of competition for them at the camp. There is no use in signing up for a camp where you aren’t going to improve, be able to display your skills, or achieve the goal you set out for by joining the camp. Playing against lower or higher competition than what the athlete is ready for can be detrimental to their overall goal physically and mentally.

Secondly, make sure to look at the staff that runs the camp and their qualifications. Lots of camps have colorful ways of making coaches sound like experts when they haven’t even played the game and only read books and/or articles on soccer; these people are likely in it for the money and could care less about the goals the athlete has set out to obtain. Typically, the best staff members are those who have had personal and lifetime experience with the game. The closer the coach is tied to the game and identifies with the game, the more likely he/she will identify with the players and the interests and be able to help the camper reach their goal(s).

Another factor to consider once the camp begins is whether the athlete is getting closer to reaching their goals. Most camps do not allow refunds but if the athlete is not showing signs of improvement, being properly evaluated, or being discovered, the camp may not be worth the continued time and effort. Of course, this is a very relative area and there is no exact formula as to if a player is meeting their goals. When the access to the camp has not overall balanced out the money put in and the goals the athlete wishes to obtain, the camp may be no longer worth the effort. On the same token, it is against many athletes’ ideals to just quit and depending on the camps connections could give the athlete a bad coachability reputation. With this being said, I believe it is most important for an athlete to stick it out through a camp if they want to represent the committed individual they will be trying to portray from joining the camp to begin with. Even when the goals are not being obtained, there is always something that can be gained from practicing. The most important thing to remember about any camp is that you get out of it what you put in; regardless of whether you were lied to or short-changed by promises the camp made, if you continue to work hard and put effort into the camp till the end you will at least gain a mental edge that will help you in learning how to overcome adversity. On the other hand, if the camp is meeting the goals set out and exceeding original expectations, don’t be content with just going through the motions. Always put your best effort into a camp once you step foot on the grass because you never know what goals you can achieve until you’ve put everything into your performance.

Finally, pay close attention to word-of-mouth recommendations and what other soccer athletes, coaches, parents, and friends say about camps. Like all youth sports camps, soccer camps are a business; if you find campers with similar goals and ambitions who have experienced different camps you are likely to get the best value – both materially speaking ($) and athletically speaking (reaching your goal) – for your experience. Additionally, investigate the camp and outside sources input. Many websites, including EXACT, offer blogs or access to blog sites that share peoples’ opinion and experiences from attending camps. Many websites for camps also contain video analysis of the camps and detailed outlines of what the camp will have. Listening to the recommendations of others should be weighed with all other factors in order to choose the proper camp that will accommodate the athlete’s goals.

In conclusion, it is important to do research on camps regarding several main concentrations of interest. Understanding what one wishes to get out of a camp and looking at different types of camps are the first steps in this process. The final step is to evaluate the quality of the camp by looking at the individual aspects of the camp that are mentioned above. An athlete will likely succeed in achieving their goals if all of these factors are taken into consideration and balanced in favor of the athlete’s best interest.