Coaches, basketball and babysitting

Okay let’s talk camp…….coaches, basketball camps, and babysitting.

A whistle blows in a gym filled with racket. The ‘tweet’ goes unheard as laugher and chatter compete with bouncing balls to raise the decibel level to near rock concert proportions.  3 sharp whistles finally cut through; temporarily calming the group. 38 kids pause for a moment, a few in pants and slip on shoes, then heed the command to run to the baseline.  As the coach begins to speak three basketballs, almost simultaneously, bounce off their owner’s feet and roll across the court. Laughter erupts and the whistle is blown yet again.

Any camp director has the instinct to tell by the way the kids are lining up on that first morning whether their camp is going to be one focused on basketball or a week of babysitting. There is nothing wrong with bringing a sport to those who are new to the game, but lately I’ve been talking to more directors who are seeking a better ‘emphasis’ out of their participants. The question boils down to: how can a coach run a casual basketball camp and prevent becoming a babysitter?  The answer is more simple than you would think: prepare with an ‘elite camp’ attitude.

I have worked with coaches and players in a variety of basketball camps. University camps, overnight camps, shooting clinics, you name it. On the spectrum of ultra competitive versus babysitting; the happiest directors have been those who establish a clear basketball mission to accompany the fun.  Making the camp ‘elite’ has nothing to do with the talent of the players but of the attitude of the coaches. There are steps a coach can take to show that their camp is open to all players; but the emphasis is about skills and an elite basketball attitude.

Here are 5 easy steps to brand your week with an elite basketball attitude.

·         Provide a required dress code. Verify proper attire upon check in.

·         Provide a pre-camp personal evaluation. During the registration process ask each camper what they want to get better at.

·         Define your camp’s mission in your event’s name. ‘Dan’s Summer Basketball Camp’ and ‘Dan’s elite skills camp’ will be perceived differently.

·         Ask your players to agree to a code of conduct.

·         Take the first day of camp to discuss the role try-outs will have in their basketball future.  Talk about common drills, what to expect, and how to prepare at home. Also use this time to break kids in to even teams for games.

 These simple steps will put the focus on basketball without taking the camp to an intensity that the new player will feel out of place.  The preparation and clearly laid out expectations will filter through the parents down to the campers resulting in a week of great basketball.  With their attention to the sport, it will ensure you stay a coach and not play the role of babysitter.


Coach, Elite Camp Director, and Former Babysitter