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6 Ways to Improve Your Basketball Camps

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Summer is a great time to improve your own players and to fundraise for the upcoming season. For most High School programs one of the biggest fundraiser of the year is the Annual High School Basketball Camp. Of course there are many other benefits of running a successful basketball camp besides fundraising.

Running camp allows you to get a detailed look at what kind of talent you have coming in to school during the next few years; it allows you to build stronger relationships with your existing players; and it is a great way to get your assistant coaches more teaching experience. However, it is still important to understand that the biggest focus of your camp is raising money.

With this in mind, it is crucial to create an atmosphere where kids want to come back year after year and participate in your camp. One of the underlying truths of running camp is the simple fact that every year there will be some kids there just to have fun and be with their friends.

On the other hand there will be players attending who want to focus on improving their skills and who seriously want to get better. The biggest challenge in designing your camp is finding a balance so you can make it a fun and worthwhile experience for everyone.

I have personally participated and coached in over 40 sessions of camp including high school, junior college, Big Sky, and Pac 12. Out of those experiences I have put together a list of 6 top things you can do to make your camp more fun and ultimately help raise more money for your program.

1. Find a camp sponsor

A great way to generate a buzz for your camp is to have attention grabbing prizes. These prizes can include everything from shirts, sweats, balls, a pair of team shoes or even a gift card for NIKE or ADIDAS gear. I have been a part of camps who have given away posters, team autographs, Powerades, Gatorades, Big Mac coupons, Dairy Queen frozen treat coupons and even Subway cards in the amount of 5 and 10 dollars.

Most camps that do this wait until the very last day to give the prizes out. However, a great way to keep kids excited and engaged in camp is to give out daily prizes. Giving away these small prizes, especially at the end of the day in front of all the parents, will insure a sense of excitement for both the parents and the campers. The cheapest way to do this is to find sponsors throughout your community who will donate small prizes to help your cause. You'll be pleasantly surprised how many prizes you can generate with just a few phone calls!

2. Get your varsity players involved

For some of us, it has been a while since the glory days of attending camps ourselves. If that describes you take a minute and think about your first camp experience. For me it was our local high school's annual camp. I was so excited because my older brother was on the Varsity team, and all the guys already knew my first name. I was so excited for them to call me by my name in front of all my friends. That might sound silly to some of you, but I guarantee there are a whole bunch of young campers out there who think exactly the same way.

By having your varsity kids involved and interacting with your campers, you will create an atmosphere of excitement and a sense of belonging. If your older players make it a point to learn the campers' names, I can promise that most of those kids will go home bragging about that experience more than anything else that happens during the week.

3. Games, games, games

As long as I can remember there has always been one topic of great debate when it comes to camp. How many games should be included throughout the camp day? Not just competitive full court 5 on 5 games but other full court and half court games as well. This is often extremely hard to determine as you have to accommodate the needs of the serious athletes and the non-basketball players as well.

This is my own general rule for the amount of games that should be included. Games should be played 3 at least times a day: to start the day off, before lunch breaks and as the last scheduled event of the day. Some of the most popular game ideas include: 1 on 1, 3 on 3, knockout/bump, dribble tag, jump shot - layup - jump shot, 21, and practically any type of ball handling relay. With a little imagination just about any teachable basketball skill can be turned into a game.

4. Limit the number of players on each camp team

Limiting the amount of campers per team ensures that everyone will get an equal opportunity to participate. I have found that the best number seems to be 7 campers per team, with no more than 8. Fewer players equal more playing time, more repetitions, more improvement and ultimately more fun.

With a maximum of 8 campers on a team, it should also be easier to equally distribute the amount of non-basketball players and basketball players on each team. Fewer players on a team may require more coaches but in terms of fun and skill development it's well worth it.

5. Be smart when it comes to conditioning

When it comes to coaching there are only a few absolute truths. One these truths is the fact that campers do not like conditioning especially in the summer time.

Since most programs hold their annual camps in the summer, it is universally known that most players are not coming in game shape. Knowing this you must coordinate and adjust your camp schedule accordingly. One of the quickest ways to sap a campers' physical and mental energy is by implementing pointless full court running.

Instead of doing your full court drills randomly throughout the day, save them and most of the full court games until the end of the day. This will not only help their concentration levels but will also guarantee that the campers go home tired. Right or wrong, many parents associate a great camp with the level of fatigue their kids experience. Play into this assumption!!!

6. Make the last day of camp the most FUN day of the week!

The last day of the camp is the most important day of the week for a few reasons. The first and foremost reason is that this is most likely the only time all of the parents will be gathered around at the same time. While parents want their campers to improve their skills they also want them to have fun. The second reason is that what happens on the last day will undoubtedly stay with the campers for a full year. The more fun they have on this day the more connected they will feel to your program and the more likely it is that they will return next year - hopefully with a friend!

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