Finding the Best Way for YOU to Learn Tennis (Part II)

Are Tennis Camps the Right Choice for YOU?

In the first post in this series, I talked about the pros and cons of tennis clinics. In this post, I’ll cover another popular tennis instruction format–especially for kids–camps.

While a clinic takes up a specific issue or offers supervised practice for an hour or two a week, a tennis camp is usually more than a day—typically a weekend, a week, or more.

kids playing guitar with tennis racket
Tennis camps open to all levels of kids are much like traditional summer camps. Parents should look for a balance of activities during the camp.

Because there is more time available in a camp, they typically blend large group instruction with some measure of individualized or small group instruction, fitness training, and competitive play. Parents reviewing camps should look for a balance of activities and, as with clinics, talk with the head teaching pro about the experience and training of the pros who will actually be working with participants on a day-to-day basis.

Camps tend to fall into two categories. Some camps are pretty much open to all comers, from beginning to advanced players. These camps are more like traditional summer camps with a special focus on tennis. The best of them introduce kids to the game, help develop the skills of more advanced players, and give everyone the chance to engage in some healthy competition with a mini- tournament at the end of the camp.

Summer tennis camps for kids of all ages are a great way to encourage kids to take an interest in the sport (or in sports in general), to meet friends who are active, and pick up some basic tennis skills. They tend to be less valuable for more advanced players, who benefit more from individualized coaching.

Boy playing tennis
Advanced players, like this NorCal Juniors player, benefit from more specialized camps that will connect them with comparable players and experienced coaches.

For more advanced junior players, specialized summer camps are probably a better option. These camps have three primary benefits. First, they tend to have higher-profile, more experienced teaching professionals who are able to do more sophisticated and individualized assessment and coaching for each participant. Second, are more likely to connect kids to other advanced players for ongoing practice partnerships. Finally, a high-quality camp can help a very talented junior player to get attention from high- quality coaches.

Again, parents thinking about enrolling their kids in an advanced camp with a high profile pro need to do some homework in advance. Parents will want to make sure the pro is not just lending her or his name to the camp, but is actually instructing. The same goes for a high profile program: just because the camp is at an Ivy League university does not mean the regular coaching staff is involved.

Parents will want to check out the balance between group and individualized instruction and find out what are the qualifications of pros involved in all aspects of the camp. If youʼve been working with a private teaching professional, you should feel free to  ask for advice in identifying and evaluating camps for your kids.

In Part III of this series, I’ll discuss the benefits and limitations of private lessons for players of all ages and abilities.

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