#93. If there’s a sport you enjoy, consider going to a sports camp this summer to fine-tune skills and make new friends

IDEA #93. If there’s a sport you enjoy, consider going to a sports camp this summer to fine-tune skills and make new friends

Sports camps come in all sizes and in all degrees of seriousness, from a couple of hours a day for beginners to invitational residential camps at which college coaches scout scholarship prospects. Some are camps with varied programs built around a particular sport, while some are essentially pre-season training experiences for committed varsity-level athletes. Some are inexpensive, even free, while others cost hundreds of dollars a week.

If a child is really interested in a particular sport and enjoys both the play and the camaraderie, a sports camp can be a way to support the interest while providing a positive personal experience. It’s important to be realistic when selecting a sports camp, however. Is the camp only for the super-talented, or is it intended for athletes of all levels? How committed is the child to the sport? Do you want your child to be pushed by drill-sergeant-like coaches for five days, or do you want the child to build on fundamental skills in order to take more satisfaction from recreational participation? Do you really believe that your child is a scholarship prospect, or would everyone be happier at some place a little less intense? How much is the child’s camp experience about fun and friend-making, and how much is it about developing killer moves in the sport? And then, of course, there’s the financial factor: Is the whole experience going to be worth the cost in dollars and time, including travel?

If the parents’ and child’s goals and assessment of needs and talent agree, then the choice of a camp should be relatively easy. Speak to the director to find out how serious the training regime might be. If you can contact other parents or guardians, get a sense of what the camp culture and atmosphere are like. Also check on health and safety: is there a trainer or a nurse on staff? What is the food like? Is there water always available for the campers?

The best part of a good sports camp is that the staff is able to break skills down so that young athletes actually understand what they are doing and how certain tactics and strategies work. Good athletes, after all, are able to envision and think about a game even as they play it, their mastery of basic skills so complete that their conscious minds are free to create new plays. Any experience that helps the truly interested young athlete approach this level of understanding might be well worth the time and effort.

As summer approaches, it’s probably a good time to start exploring camp options–locations, day-only or residential, overall programs, prices. It’s also good to have a couple of months’ lead time`for the child to look for ways–babysitting, odd jobs–to help defray the cost, thus raising his or her commitment level as stakeholders in their own experience.

Beating the Post-Holiday Blahs: Finding sources of interest during what can be a tough few days

Whatever your tradition, the past couple of weeks have probably involved at least some gift-giving to children, and with all the consumerist hype around holidays, the aftermath inevitably feels like a letdown to many adults and children.

Your interested child may be one of the happy few curled up with a new book or rapturously engaged with a new game, toy, or piece of sporting equipment. Odds are, however, that a certain restlessness is making itself apparent. Vacation days are suddenly devoid of exciting events or surprises and stretch into idle hours to fill with—what?

It’s a challenge for families around the world. How do you engage kids who are in a post-holiday stupor?

If ever there were a time to hop in the car or onto public transportation to visit a museum, a historic site, a gallery, or attend a musical or theatrical event—even a sporting event—this is it. Many such things are low-cost or free; a concert can be at a local church or concert hall, a game can involve college or high school teams; this is tournament time in many places. The idea is to get out of the house and engage.

When taking a child to an event or a cultural or historical destination, make the journey a time of conversation; make attendance interactive. Come up with questions or observations that stimulate the mind and the heart, whether they’re about impressions of what is being viewed, statistical queries, or speculation about other perspectives. Post-event reflection is also a great thing.

At a time when intellectual curiosity needs a bit of an external spark, there are no better questions than

  • What do you think of that?
  • Why do you think they did it that way?
  • What does this remind you of?
  • What do you think your great-grandfather or grandmother would think of this?
  • What would you differently if you were running this?
  • Do you like this?
  • or even: What don’t you enjoy or like about that? How would you fix it to make it more appealing?

The trick, as every parent or guardian knows, is how and when to pose questions without pestering or annoying. The point is not to demand answers but to get the child’s mind in gear; conversation and cogitation are the ultimate objectives, not a running interrogation.

If getting out and going is not in the cards, try finding sources of stimulation around the home: a thought-provoking film (and it doesn’t have to be an un-entertaining movie—but something set in an unfamiliar era or place can get extra synapses firing) or even a show on television, some time with a good radio show. (We’re fans of Wait, Wait, Don’t Tell Me!, Car Talk, and A Prairie Home Companion. This American Life and The Moth Radio Hour can also be great, but sometimes their subject matter may not be appropriate, as they say, for all ages. All of these are available as podcasts, so you can listen on demand if you have internet access.)

Remember, the interested child doesn’t need to be kept away from popular media or force-fed only educational programming. Our kids were turned on, for example, by the Star Trek: The Next Generation series and the old comedy film The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming; good stories offer perspective as well as entertainment.

Soon enough even kids claiming to be “bored” will find ways to pick themselves up as the holiday break goes on, but it won’t hurt to jump start the process.

And of course, the interested child’s adult caregivers should make sure that they find things to keep themselves active and engaged, too.

Happy holidays! The fun is far from over.

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