1. Get healthy!
While it may seem obvious, the role of camp in propagating health and fitness is worth looking at more closely. According to ParticipACTION Canada (taking a cue from the World Health Organization1), children aged 5 to 17 should participate in moderate to vigorous physical activity, at least 60 minutes daily. Sports camps take care of those 60 minutes. In contrast, as reported by ParticipACTION Canada in its last report card (2018), only 39% of 5 to 17 year olds in Canada reach their recommended physical activity levels. That data is “alarming,” say the authors. On average, “kids are still sitting too much and moving too little to reach their full potential.” Attendance at sports camp, and encouraging others to join you, is an important part of stemming a distressing trend in Canadian children.
2. Learn techniques and skills from professionals
At ourkids.net we host many camps featuring professional instructors, in sports as varied as tennis, soccer, hockey and more. Camps offering instruction by professional athletes include Teen Ranch, which features sessions taught by former Olympian Josee Chouinard, and Ivy Hockey Academy run by one-time NHLer Mark Moore. Those are just a few examples. Boys and girls at camps like these benefit immensely from training with coaches who have firsthand experience as professional athletes. Professional sports experience entails intensive training, focus and development. Coaching from someone who has “been there/done that” is an unparalleled experience for any child. You'll reach higher performance levels, no matter where you are in your development. You'll get an authentic assessment of what you need to improve on in order to have a chance to follow in their footsteps.
Bridgett attended a basketball camp, and speaks for many camp grads in saying, "training [by former professionals] has made a huge impact in my life, as they helped me become more confident in myself, not only in basketball, but for all sports and in life."
3. Develop responsibility and a work ethic
The commitment and dedication you acquire or intensify in sports camp will help you in other areas of life, even if you don't make it professionally (few do). Dedicated athletes develop into leaders in other areas of life, ranging from business to politics and elsewhere. There's a connection between this success and the discipline, confidence, and desire to win cultivated in athletic activity — and enhanced by time in sports camp. Even if you don't ultimately succeed in athletic aspirations like making the NHL or the Canadian Olympic team, you'll cultivate skills that help you excel, period.
4. Make your brain stronger
A rapidly expanding body of research describes how physical activity in childhood and adolescence results in improved cognition (i.e., thinking and learning), better academic performance, as well as mental health (see above). Aerobic exercise increases blood flow to the brain, which leads directly to the development of neurons, especially in young brains. Neurotrophin production is also stimulated by exercise; these lead to greater brain plasticity. Exercise throughout life reduces your risk of developing dementia and other brain disorders. Read more about these benefits.
5. Unique opportunities for self-expression
Single sex sports camps, especially girls-only camps, provide a safe place for them to be themselves. “There are so many instances where females don’t have a safe space where they feel comfortable being physically active, or feel as if they don’t belong because they don’t look a certain way or do a certain action,” says Gabriela Estrada.2 Sports camps for girls give them an opportunity to express themselves, undistracted by concerns that come with the presence of boys. Especially for older girls and teenage girls, girls-only sports camps offer a respite from external pressures and give them opportunity to focus and develop, both personally and athletically.
6. Management of anxiety and depression
Play time, scrimmaging, and sports is more than just fun. When kids and teens engage in physical activity, this releases endorphins, clears their mind of stress and improves their physical fitness. These all decrease tendencies to anxiety and depression. There's a large body of research to support this, of course (although exercise is not a panacea). If you need to read more, start with authorities like The Mayo Clinic or the US National Institute of Health.
7. Reduce social media, screens and other technology
You’re not going to be Snapchatting or checking Instagram likes when you’re on a breakaway on the soccer field. Social media is not all bad, of course, but it’s never a bad idea to take a break. The intensive activity at sports camps gives kids a chance to moderate their cellphone and technology use; moderation is never a bad thing. There's a growing body of research into the effects of social media on kids and teens’ mental health. It’s good advice to deeply consider its effects. Some authorities do feel that it does more harm than good.
In Canada, this is a concern of the Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology, which offers specific "benefits and guidelines for kids," in cooperation with ParticipACTION Canada. Part of their list of recommendations includes no more than two hours of recreational screen time daily. Do you measure up? Sports camp will help break the spell.
8. Improve self-esteem and confidence
Confidence-building is part and parcel of life at sports camp, especially if you excel. Even those who are not as athletically gifted as others develop skills or specific aspects of the game. Ultimately, confidence isn't predicated on victory but on the simple process of learning to set goals and achieve them. Sports camps on our platform focus on this holistic view of competition. Accomplishment of personal goals is ultimately the only win that truly counts. Camp guide Erica Hamel says, “the sense of accomplishment and confidence you gain from meeting goals encourages you to be better and want more.”
9. Improves children's long term health outlook
ParticipACTION Canada says, "The landscape of preventable chronic disease among children and youth is changing — and not for the better. The prevalence of overweight and obesity, diabetes, and use of health services for mental illness is high." Physical activity is an important corrective to this trend. Read the warning from ParticipACTION.
10. Develop physical literacy fundamentals
The best sports camps provide a varied curriculum that includes an educational component as well. Physical literacy is defined as “the motivation, confidence, physical competence, knowledge and understanding to value and take responsibility for engagement in physical activities for life.” Secondary education is important in both crystalizing and augmenting kids’ awareness of the physical effects of exercise, and for that matter, everything else they do as well (sedentation, sleeping, eating, etc.) Read more about the specific value of physical literacy.
11. Social skills improvement
All camps bring together kids and teens from different backgrounds. At sports camp, you meet kids from other parts of the city or province you're in. This reaps many benefits like friendships — but also much more. You're interacting constantly, so you can't help but improve communication. As well, in the structured environment of camp, instructors lead and guide kids and teens through communication and cooperation, both formally and informally. No matter what, camp provides opportunities for personal growth you won't find at home or otherwise couched in your comfort zone.
12. Helps kids develop enthusiasm
Kids who love sports get a chance to cultivate their enthusiasm. Go to hockey school and you're sure to deepen your love for the world's coolest sport. Soccer academies will only improve your love for the most beautiful game. 'Nuff said!
Few kinds of camps can make a better claim to being fun than sports camp. Again, need we say more?
14. Can be an important part of your development as a professional athlete
Last but not least, sports camp might lead to a professional career, as it has for some alumni. You could one day be a featured alumni who credits your time at camp as critically formative to your experience, perhaps as an Olympic gold medalist like Ashley McIvor or Adam van Koeverden. Maybe you end up a World Cup winner like Veronika Bauer, an NHLer like Josh Bailey, or an MLS star like Dwayne De Rosario. Van Koeverden says, “Camp was enjoyable and was an awesome part of my youth.” He started training at the Burloak Canoe Club at age 13, after several years at camp. "The main goal should always be just enjoyment.”
Even if you don’t make it professionally, you might find that sports camp helps you toward a career closely tied to sports, as it did for Scott Russell.
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In the end, the list of sports camps benefits would seem to be growing, as more research is done into understanding human development. We're certain that every child and teen’s personal potential grows at sports camp.
- Jim Huinink
Notes, sources and further reading:
1www.who.int/. This guideline is adapted by organizations the world over.