How to Choose A Tennis Camp for Your Child
I was 11 years old in the Summer of 1965 when my parents sent me to my first sleep-away tennis camp. I remember the first day like it was yesterday. We were told that by the end of the afternoon we had to hit 100 serves in a row in the service box or we could not go in for dinner. Whoa!!! Was this Boot Camp or tennis camp? This is a rue story and, no, it was not connected to a military academy. Yes, I finished by pushing my 100th serve in a row into the box and ate dinner. In fact, I think everyone ate dinner that night.
But, I can also tell you that I vividly remember the sun setting and feeling very pressured to survive that first day.
On the positive side, I also have two good memories as well: Hitting my first topspin one-handed backhand, and also learning to ride horses. I can’t say that my tennis improved dramatically, not do I remember other details of the program. These few things are all that I remember.
In those days there were probably only a dozen or so Summer sleep-away camps in the entire country that focused on tennis. In contrast, these days there are probably nearly 100 programs to choose from. Make it a thousand if you include day camp style Summer camps at your local club or public recreation center. Summer tennis lessons for all levels of experience and interest are offered nearly everywhere.
If you’re a parent like me, you want to enroll your child in the best environment possible, one that will encourage their tennis, but also offer other benefits, including life skills and a positive social environment. The purpose of this article is to clearly list some of the questions you need to ask in deciding where to enroll your child.
First, however, you need to examine your own expectations alongside the desires of your child. Are they totally dedicated to tennis and seeking to compete at higher levels, or are they more interested in a well-rounded program that offers more varied activities than just six hours a day on a tennis court. Regardless of how you answer this question, here are a few points to consider in making your decision about the best camp experience for your child.
1. Make sure that you and your child are on the same page about the type of experience you are seeking. To identify the type of camp you may be seeking, visualize yourselves at the end of the Summer and look back at the experience you would hope to have. This exercise can help you all identify priorities. Although no single program will have everything, the one you choose should offer the most of what you want.
2. Gather information about your options and narrow the choices down to just a few possibilities. Then, ask for a list of 3-5 families whose children attended each camp you are investigating. Take the time to speak with them. Remember that a few intelligent hours now can help you make the right decision in selecting a camp experience that will be remembered for a lifetime. Without research, you are flipping a coin.
I guarantee that my parents had little idea that the first night their only son would be pushing and pooping his serve into the box just to get the exercise finished in order to eat dinner. And no, looking back on it, I do not think that exercise helped my serve.
3. Then, when you have narrowed down the choices to one or two, let your child make the final decision where to spend their summer. Forcing a child never works out, especially to go to sleep-away camp if they are not ready. Of course, you are the parent, and it is fine to softly guide them to make what you feel is the right choice, however, it is critical that they feel it is their decision. This approach can tremendously increase the likelihood for the experience to be positive.
One thing is for certain. Most parents do not take the time to investigate the camp where they send their children. Treat this process like deciding which school your child should attend. Wouldn’t you want to know about the school’s philosophy about teaching? What are the qualifications of the teachers? What is the teacher-to-student ratio? What extra-curricular activities are available? And, wouldn’t you want to know where former students tend to end up?
Since tennis is broadly accepted as one of the best sports for a lifetime, the decision to select the right summer camp for your child is an important one. Invest time in researching which experience is best suited to your particular child and the rewards will reflect the time spent in making the right selection. Remember that you want your actual memory of that summer experience to match up closely to what you visualized it would be.
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