Failing at Sport Camp

Many families are sadly watching another summer fade away. The good news is that for those have who been scrambling to have their children’s time occupied with various activities, the start of school is very near. Until the school bells ring, however, what are some options for families to keep children busy and not just logging long hours on Netflix Instant? Perhaps at the last minute you enrolled your child in a sport camp. Sport camps are great for children who have a shown a particular interest in a sport, or would like to be exposed to a sport in a short amount of time without having to sign up for a whole season with a team or league.


Some sport campers will find their natural gifts to excel in a sport, but simply everyone is expecting to have fun and to improve. Some have aspirations of making the varsity team in 9th grade, others are trying to be selected to the travel team, or others have longer term goals of becoming an Olympian or a professional sports star. Regardless of one’s own goals and talents, the chief purpose of these camps is to celebrate the fun of sport.


But when one is trying to develop faster than he/she is able, there can be the inevitable growing pains, and the sport stops being fun. Other times children just want to play, and not be told to be in this position, execute this play, or over-intellectualize the game. Sport camps should be fun, but oftentimes kids can feel discouraged and find it not so fun.  The reality is that  all camps involve practice and repetition.


As a student athlete in high school and college I remember many days where practice was not enjoyable, but when we got to play or scrimmage, the fun factor increased immensely. Whether kids are playing soccer, lacrosse, basketball, or swimming, kids just want to play and compete. Thus, the prospect of a thoughts of a sport specific camp may be dazzling, but when faced with very structured and scheduled instructional time of drills, skills, practices, etc., children may lose their interest.


Practice is inherently not enjoyable because it has to do with failure. If we were perfect, would we have to practice? Budding athletes have so much to learn, from various techniques, body control, situational game knowledge, etc., and taking in all this information takes time, and implementing all the new stuff will initially be sloppy. Just like learning to ride a bike can be full of knee scrapes and property damage, learning a new movement, a new position, or being forced to work on our weakness will initially result in some level of failure. Failure isn’t a child’s goal, however their goal is to have fun and to improve, right?


Parents can do well to reinforce the joy of sports by creating a safe space for their child(ren) to understand the scope of sports.  Parents can share what a camp may be like, including the expectations. It’s also important that children know that failure is an option and it’s the only way one becomes better and ultimately to become great. Understanding and empathy from their parents through the growing pains of becoming an athlete will allow young people to feel supported and encouraged to continue to persevere and improve.


*of course if you want to take this one step further you can apply the aspects of failure/practice and sports to academics, life, school, etc.








* Photo Credit: Thortie


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