For some children, summer offers an opportunity to learn new things outside of a classroom through a variety of day camps. This summer, sports camps ranging from baseball to volleyball will dot the fields and fieldhouses throughout Fairfax County.
For advanced players, the camps offer a chance to learn new skills or sharpen existing ones in their chosen individual or team sport. For others, however, it gives the youngsters a chance to try a sport they have never played without committing to a lengthy season. In many cases, the camps range from four days to two weeks long.
“We do have kids that are new to the sport,” said Tony Gray, director of Shadow Lacrosse. “A majority of them are beginners. We have such a low registration cost, parents can experiment with the sport.”
Shadow Lacrosse offers camps at Oak Marr in Oakton and in Arlington. It teaches children the skills needed for lacrosse through drills, competitions and scrimmages. Shadow Lacrosse also offers equipment rental for those who have never picked up a lacrosse stick.
THE CAMPS provide more than a place to keep children busy until school starts in the fall. The various camp directors say it is best to begin teaching a child a sport at an early age.
“The camp has great instructors,” said Jimmy Holm, of Junior Golf, held at Fair Oaks Golf Park. “It teaches the little kids the etiquette rules, rules of the course, proper technique.”
One of the tricks, however, is to teach the children without them feeling they are learning. It is summer camp, after all.
“The kids love it there,” said Gaylenn Mann, office manager for TenniStar. “It’s not like being in school or a clinic. They are having fun.”
Mann said the two-week camp, held at Wakefield and Madeira School in McLean, is centered around a “stroke of the day.” The campers come in the morning, learn the stroke and play games based on the stroke. The afternoon session consists of footwork and strategies, again related to the stroke. The campers are divided by age and skill level, so the more advanced children will also get to play against each other.
“We have children of all skill levels,” Mann said. “If a child never held a racket before, by the time they leave the camp, they’re hitting the ball back and forth over the net. If the child is more advanced, we have instructors that keep it competitive.”
LANCE HACKETT, DIRECTOR of the Soccer Academy, said the camps also give the children an opportunity to work with professional coaches rather than the volunteer moms and dads that run the local youth leagues.
“The coach is like a teacher, and what parents care about is how good the teacher is,” Hackett said. “Our coaches are teachers.”
Soccer Academy, which offers camps in Great Falls, McLean and the Reston-Herndon area, uses coaches who are prominent in the sport. The camp was started 20 years ago by John Ellis, assistant coach of the women’s National Team, and at one time employed the Washington Freedom’s Mia Hamm.
“Like anything you want to master, you have to take advantage of different opportunities,” Hackett said. “A vast majority of our campers aren’t serious players. They usually have one or two practices a week with their club team. This may be their only opportunity to work with a professional coach.”
He said the camp focuses on the fundamentals of the sport and includes a blend of activities ranging from skills, games, and maybe something that has no connection to soccer.