One of the best ways to promote your high school program is to offer a basketball camp for the youth in your area. I thought it was so important that I ran camps at 5 of the six high schools I coached, starting way back when local camps weren’t even common. I always found there were many benefits to these camps, so they really did help our high school program. Here are some of those benefits:
- Getting to know the younger talent who may eventually be in your program.
- Having a chance to introduce that young talent to the important fundamentals of basketball.
- Using your own players as instructors. Letting them teach the youngsters and also allowing them to serve as role models.
- Indoctrinating and involving your own coaching staff so they learn more about your system.
- Earning some money to help finance your program.
- Enjoying the young players and interacting with everyone involved.
Setting up a successful camp can be time consuming, but it’s something I always enjoyed doing. It takes careful planning to get the most out of it, so you need to start early. First, pick a date for the camp. Never choose the week after your feeder schools let out for the summer. Many parents plan to leave town then. Besides, you and your potential staff need a little break at the end of your school year too. I found that the second or third week of June usually was a great time for summer camp. This gave parents a chance to plan vacations around it and a little extra time for you to organize the camp too.
Choosing the grade levels to invite is the next big consideration. After several years of doing this, I found it most successful for us to have next fall’s 5th through 9th graders eligible for our camps. The 9th graders were invited so they had a chance to work with our staff right before entering our program in the fall. Some years we would have a lot of them sign up and other years only a few. But at least it was made available to them so they could get an early indoctrination into our system.
For the lower age group, I tried 3rd and 4th graders a couple of times, but found it to be more like a “Day Care” situation for us. Many parents would sign kids up so they could get them out of the house, but the kids often had no interest in basketball skill development yet at that age. They weren’t mature enough to be serious about the game, so it was often a battle to keep them focused. Without the real young ones, our camps ran much smoother and everyone got more out of it. Yes, I did make exceptions to 4th graders whose parents convinced me their son was indeed serious about playing basketball and really, really wanted to be there. With those few cases, I was happy to accommodate the parents and player.
The availability of facilities is also an important consideration. Make sure you reserve the gym well in advance, before some other organization signs up for the week you want it. Some schools have two gyms that can be used to accommodate larger turnouts, so you may need to reserve both of them. At other times, if only one facility is available, you may need to break the camp into two sessions, the older kids and then the younger ones. I personally liked having the camp use two facilities when the numbers demanded it. That way, we could start in the main gym to open the session each day, then split into age groups for the instruction and games.
The next big consideration is choosing a camp staff. Of course you want to involve all of your own staff, from the Freshman Coach, to the various assistants. It is even a good idea to include intermediate school coaches too, if possible. This allows you, as head coach, to work with all of your lower level coaches and let them see how you teach your system. As far as assignments, I like to have the Freshmen Coach work with the 8th and 9th graders, since he will be coaching them next anyways. He gets to learn the names and abilities of the future players, plus, he gets an early start on developing his future team.
When we were using two gyms, I liked to have the JV coach be the lead instructor in the second gym, with the younger kids. He served as a second camp director, keeping the younger group on schedule, teaching the fundamentals, while developing his own leadership skills as a future Camp Director some day. He was also the one who took over as Camp Director when I had to be absent or leave for other business. I still wrote the schedule for each session and the JV Coach made sure it was followed.
Varsity players were asked to serve as assistant coaches and trainers. I carefully assigned them to various stations that we used in the facility(s). Stronger leaders and more experienced players, usually worked with the older kids. Those that I felt had good patience and experience with younger kids, would be assigned to grade school age groups. Involving your own players as instructors is a great way to not only teach the young campers, but also helps your players understand their own system better too. Having to teach and explain a basketball skill or fundamental is a great way to reinforce that skill in the teacher’s mind. Plus, players get a better understanding of just how tough it can be to coach players.
As the Camp’s Director, I was responsible for all of the organization and scheduling of the skills, drills, and activities for each session. I needed to decide what would be taught and emphasized during the week, what the schedule would be each day, and what and when it would be taught. I started with a week-long outline, then made a daily schedule and timeline, and finally printed and gave a copy to every camp staff member each day at our pre-session meeting. The instructors then had a schedule of what we were to accomplish, and the Facility Directors had the responsibility of making sure we stayed on schedule. We went over the schedule each morning and then met briefly after each session to discuss how things went that day and what we needed to do better the next session.
Coming later, in part 2 of this article, suggestions on what to teach and how to organize the time available at Summer Camp.
For more information, check out Coach Battenberg’s website: http://www.coachbattenberg.net
And check out Coach Battenberg’s books on Fast Break & Post Play: http://coachbattenberg.net/books.htm