When is my child ready to go away to a summer camp? What type of camp is right for my child? What should my child take away from a camp experience?

These are questions parents struggle with when they consider sending their children away for a weeklong stay – or maybe longer – at a summer camp. And, of course, there is no single answer to cover every family or every child.

But I would advise parents to consider a camp that has diversification in its programs and a reputation that spans several years, several generations.

There’s no question The Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps has the diversity and reputation most parents are looking for. Our setting offers specialty sports camps within the traditional camp setting. There’s something, literally, for every child.

But let’s take a quick step backwards. If you think your child is ready for an overnight camp but are not quite sure, why not try a few sessions at a day camp? Speak to your child about what he or she might want to do at a camp, whether it is specifically geared toward sports or other outdoor activities. If the child responds positively to the idea of getting out from under their parents, then move ahead.

In the long run, just remember that children have to learn how to separate themselves from their parents and families in order to become independent, and the proper camp experience can provide the training and for this important step.

To be frank, many experts also believe children on their own, interacting with other children in a supervised and healthy, outdoor setting can provide valuable memories and unmeasured maturity.

Experts often will differ on the right age for sending children away. I think it really depends on your child’s maturity level. Some experts say children as young as 6 and 7 are ready to go away; others say children as old as 12 or 14 might not be ready.

To be sure, have some give and take with your child. In the end, you’re more likely get a good handle on the “right time” simply by talking with your child.

If you’re looking specifically for a sports-oriented camp, then there are a few other factors to consider.

  1. With beginner athletes, fundamental skills are essential. Camps should teach the fundamentals of the sport in a safe and fun setting, free of stress. Ask about how the athlete will be grouped; will he or she be placed in a group of similarly skilled athletes? The learning environment should emphasize fun and participation. The camp structure also should encourage participation in children who might not have shown strong interest in sports or physical activity. Make sure there are a variety of sports and activities, so the child can dip in and out of participation and most likely find something he or she will truly enjoy. Two key words here: “try” and fun. The camp structure should NOT be pushy or demanding.
  2. For the more experienced athlete, the variety of sports and the levels of instruction are important. Will that athlete be getting instruction that fits his or her ability level? That means parents have to know if the instructors have experience in teaching, coaching and playing themselves. Also, if the instructors are former college and professional players, how active will they be in the sessions? Will they really be instructing and teaching, or will they just show up at the campsite for a short period to sign autographs and pose for pictures with some of the campers? At Brookwood, there is instruction for a variety of different sports, and our pro instructors just love to teach. The programs are age-and-skill appropriate, encourage participation and also offer opportunities for high-level competition.
  3. Environment, patience and positive reinforcement. With some young athletes, even those who are considered very good, development can be slower. Some children might love a sport but, frankly, not be as polished at it at a young age. So, even if a youngster has trouble shooting a basketball from longer ranges or hitting a baseball consistently, the key is to keep the child interested. It can take time until a child achieves a level of sports success or appreciation. At Brookwood, our goal is to provide a healthy, upbeat environment, with knowledgeable instructors who show patience and encourage your child to reach a little higher. We believe it’s the difference between giving more to an activity and giving up.

–This blog is written by Jay Fiedler, former NFL and Miami Dolphins Quarterback who is the Director of the Sports Academy at Brookwood Camps. If you wish to ask Jay a question email him at: jay@brookwoodcamps.com