Hosting a Youth Camp at the High School

Blog by Casey Blades, Cypress Lakes High School, High School Advocacy Team

After this crazy year of “pandemic” teaching and “pandemic” coaching (Who ever heard of hybrid synchronous delivery systems or virtual soccer workouts?), I was tempted to take this summer completely off and recharge my batteries. Instead, I hosted my school’s first ever four-day youth soccer camp for elementary and middle school girls, and I am so happy that I did! Below are a list of positives taken from my experience.

Fundraising— Hosting a camp proved to be a quick way to raise money for my program. Even after the purchase of basic materials, such as certificates, camp t-shirts, and frozen popsicle snacks, my camp was fairly inexpensive to run. Not many other fundraisers — and I have done them all — are as quick or as fun as a camp.

Building community— To paraphrase a popular expression, hosting a camp is the gift that keeps on giving. My district touts that the three R’s go beyond reading, writing, and ‘rithmetic to include rigor, relevance, and relationships. My camp allowed me to start building that relationship piece, enabling me to meet both future players and their parents. The kids love getting to play on the real field where the big kids play, and I got the opportunity to create my own first impression with their parents. A camp also fosters connections between the feeder campuses with the high school. In addition, a camp gives me the contacts and the opportunity to keep those connections going throughout the year. I will invite the campers back to be ball girls at my home games, and I hope to start a big sister-little sister mentorship program.

Scouting talent— Including middle-schoolers in the camp gave me the opportunity to scout rising talent. For example, I have a better idea of which incoming freshmen should be placed in the varsity athletic period rather than the JV period. I can better utilize precious preseason time — and save the school counselors the headache of yet another schedule change — all because I know my new players from camp.

Fostering leadership— If the rules in your state allow, include your current players as the coaches in your camp. Students are often looking for resume-building activities and ways to increase community service hours. In addition, working a camp is a chance for your players to experience the behind-the-scenes work that goes into every practice plan. Include your players in the planning process. Delegate drills for them to lead on their own. Whether the drills run perfectly or not, your players will learn a lot — and might just be more appreciative of the work you put into their team’s next practice!

My state does not allow current players to volunteer, but I was able to hire two recent graduates to run my camp with me. They felt extra special that I picked them to coach alongside me — and paid them, too!

Remembering why— Like I said at the beginning of this blog, I was very tempted to not host a camp this year. But I am thrilled that I did! My youth camp served as a refreshing reminder about why I became a coach. It showed me a bright future for my program.? It showed me the playful side of soccer. It showed me the stage when kids fall in love with the game and just can’t get enough.