Dick Harmon: Are summer sports camps worth it?

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  • Henry Drummond San Jose, CA
    July 6, 2011 7:47 p.m.

    I know there are children who are gifted musically, and parents make financial sacrifices to develop those talents. Certainly $400.00 for summer camp does not seem at all out of line. I would want to hear more about the private coaching that is running into to tens of thousands of dollars though. That is beginning to sound obsessive not constructive.

  • greenman108 Petaluma, CA
    July 6, 2011 8:00 a.m.

    One more thing: college coaches do indeed offer scholarships at college camps.
    They like to see the kids in action, against the best competition.
    So, it is certainly "worth it" to camp at a college camp that is one of the colleges the kid/parents are considering.

  • greenman108 Petaluma, CA
    July 6, 2011 7:56 a.m.

    every task is the same in that it takes thousands of hours of practice with the feedback of a coach to master that task. So... sure it is "worth it" to camp.
    Whether it is "worth it" to drive all day to a particular camp instead of another one near home is a more complex question: Texas, south Louisiana and Alabama high school football coaches are PROBABLY going to provide better coaching than your neighbor, but... some neighbors know football.

  • Indian Expat Bangalore, Karnataka
    July 6, 2011 6:37 a.m.

    I think the only reason to go to camp is because your kid wants to. Because it's fun for them to work and practice and excel at something they like. And because you can afford it. When I was at BYU, I worked for continuing education. I could not believe how expensive these camps are! Especially the drama and musical dance theater camps.

    If you are dipping into retirement for your kid to go to camp, then it's no wonder our government dips into social security to pay for wars abraod. It's a bad policy at any level. If a kid wants to attend camp and you can't afford it, they can mow lawns all summer. Even though I actually enjoy mowing the lawn, I let our neighbor boy do it because each summer I know he's saving up for something or other and I'm glad to see him work for it. Kids can make their own money to pay for their own camps.

  • Duckhunter Highland, UT
    July 5, 2011 10:26 p.m.

    Uh eagle, I already said only the elite athletes can do it these days. You just listed a bunch of elite athletes. Pay a little more attention to what you are reading and we won't have to re-hash again. The fact is that by the time kids reach high school the vast majority of them specialize. If they want to play a minor sport on top of a major sport it becomes easier to play multiple sports but very few kids can play two, and especially not all three, of the major sports. It is a small minority.

  • BO Holladay, UT
    July 5, 2011 5:22 p.m.

    The answer is easy. NO!

  • KSDBN Murray, UT
    July 5, 2011 4:16 p.m.

    It is my experience that the majority of kids go to these camps because its fun, they love to play the sport, and their friends go with them. The Hatch guy in the article is the exception, not the rule. I hope the kid has talent for his sake. That would be a waste if he traveled the world and spent thousands of dollars and his kid wasn't good enough to play. Could be devastating to the boy...

  • eagle Provo, UT
    July 5, 2011 3:11 p.m.

    If I had to say who were the two best football players I saw this past year, I would vote Kesni Tausinga (Bingham) and Nare Fakahafua (Highland). I'm not sure if either did track but Tausinga was a two-time state champion wrestler and All-American placing fourth in the Senior Nationals. Fakahafua was first team All-State in basketball. Both led their teams to state titles in football and Fakahufua helped his team take state in basketball. Tausinga is considered one of the most dominant lineman ever to play football in Utah and Fakahafua basically took over games on offense and defense. Tausinga's teammate Stefan Cantwell was both the 5-A football and baseball MVP.

    Lexi Eaton was an incredible soccer and basketball athlete on the female side. Playing some soccer didn't hurt her basketball prowess at all. I already brought up the two-sport stars Whitney Johnson and Marquelle Funk who were all-state athletes in two sports and won rings in volleyball.

    On the sports specialization argument, sorry case closed!

  • byu rugby Crystal Lake, IL
    July 5, 2011 3:06 p.m.

    Come on! Spending your retirement on private coaches and elite sports camps is just nuts! Please people, let your kids have some unstructured time to just run around and play w/o the pressure of prying adults. They are not commodities created to generate quarterly dividends. What happens if the kid fails to meet your R.O.I.C. objectives? Are you going to short sell them him or her for a newer model with an increased upside potential? Why in the H.E. double C.K. should kids be pushed skip the most important phase of their life for a one in one million shot at a 3 1/2 year pro career or, any other adult pursuit! Let kids be kids.

  • eagle Provo, UT
    July 5, 2011 2:50 p.m.

    Duckhunter: You are from Highland and probably follow Lone Peak athletics. Let's take two girls that recently signed basketball scholarships at Division I institutions: Whitney Johnson and Marquelle Funk. Both also played volleyball and were on a state championship volleyball team. I bet if you asked them, they were glad they played volleyball and not just basketball.

    Now let's take one of the most recent and arguably greatest athlete in Utah history, Cael Sanderson who went undefeated in college wrestling, won an Olympic gold medal and now after coaching Penn State to a national title is making a comeback to the sport. He actually played football in high school. Let's look at all of the pro football players Utah has produced. Stewart Bradley, Kevin Dyson, Chris Cooley, Haloti Ngata, Kevin Curtis as examples (of home grown players in the NFL)--all were multiple sport athletes. Basketball seems to be the sport where coaches require the most specialization and how many homegrown Utah players are there in the NBA? Absolutely none.

    Don't drink the kool-aid of specialization. Go (do complete) research all the athletes on the list that won scholarships this year--MOST were multiple-sport athletes.

  • Duckhunter Highland, UT
    July 5, 2011 2:14 p.m.


    "The myth of specialization. Most of the players in the NFL, major league baseball and the NBA played multiple sports in high school."

    Actually it is not a myth, for the vast majority of high school athletes it is reality. We are not discussing the truly elite. For instance there was an athlete at Lone Peak several years ago by the name of Sam Burgess. He was an outstanding athlete who later was a started on the BYU basketball team. He played Football, Basketball and Baseball at Lone Peak. He was an elite athlete and he is the exception. A kid like that no coach can say "no you can't play other sports" because he was simply so good that none of the coaches dared to be the one to tell him that and risk him telling them "Fine, I'll drop your sport."

    The guys that become proffesional athletes are obviously that elite. It is all the other kids, the ones that are good athletes but not great. There are still some that play multiple sports but it is much fewer than it was 20 years ago and it is limited to the very elite.

  • Katiebugg Salt Lake City, UT
    July 5, 2011 12:53 p.m.

    This article seems to focus a lot on the exposure aspect of camps. It does mention a bit about the skills acquired. But there is more than one way to play D-1 sports (if that is your goal). Just ask Chad Lewis.

  • JDL Magna, UT
    July 5, 2011 12:26 p.m.

    My experience as a dad of a HS athlete is probably very similar to others in that I helped my son have good experiences to the degree he wanted them. He played BB from the time he was 8 and I coached him along with another father through super league. We encouraged all our kids to attend camps and many of his teammates did attended several camps and improved his/their games as a result. One teammate played AAU because of the camps. His class made it to the HS 4A semi finals. The first year in twenty years his HS even made the playoffs.

    His junior year in HS he only wanted to play church ball because he was weary of the time and energy spent all those years. He just wanted to have fun. His mother and I were disappointed because we knew if he returned his senior year he would loose his starting role which happened but he was a very good sixth man and was named 2nd team all region. We supported him in his decision.

    No post HS play, no scholarship but a great kid. He knew more than I did.

  • jazzhater Humble, TX
    July 5, 2011 12:24 p.m.

    The bottom line: A majority of college athletic scholarships go to those who put in extra time (and money) at camps. Call it sad or unfair - "it is what it is". So if this is your goal, then you probably need to go camping to increase your chances. (with the understanding that there are no absolutes) Oh yea, you need to be good.

    There is something wrong with people who are obsessed with ONE thing. That's not what this article is saying.

  • eagle Provo, UT
    July 5, 2011 12:20 p.m.

    The myth of specialization. Most of the players in the NFL, major league baseball and the NBA played multiple sports in high school. Lebron was a stud football player as an example. Tony Romo is a good golfer (nearly qualified for the US Open) and plays QB for the Cowboys. Local talent Chris Cooley wrestled and played football in high school and was actually an All-American wrestler. Just about every NFL, NBA and major league baseball player did at least two sports in high school, some three. Some like John Elway entertained professional careers in multiple sports. Bottom line, you either have the physical gifts to play at the college/pro level or you don't. Those who "have" to specialize probably don't have the physical gifts to make it to the next level.

    And if you don't believe me, look at the scholarship athletes we produced this year. The vast, vast majority were multiple sport athletes whether they were Lexi Eaton or Kesni Tausinga (AA wrestler and AA football player--loved wrestling because it made him better at football).

  • bandersen Saint George, UT
    July 5, 2011 11:36 a.m.

    When your chances of becoming a neurosurgeon are better than becoming a professional athlete, it should give wise parents a pause! That doesn't mention the facts that keep piling up about the failure that pro athletes experience in their personal lives. This may be cynical to some, but it is the truth! Excellence in any field is a gift from God, something that is missing from most athletes perspectives. Is it still possible? Yup! As for me, I had four priorities for my oldest boy before sports: God (Church duties AND activities), Family (FHE, time with siblings, etc.), School (Nothing less than his best was accepted), and Scouting (Whether you are a scouter or not, there is not a better program in the world for developing character and appreciation for others). All of these came before time could be allotted to sports. My son became an Eagle scout, loves his brothers and sister, only had one 'B' in highschool, and completed his church responsibilities dutifully. He worked to pay for the camps he went to, bought his own car, paid his own insurance, cel phone, and saved for most of his mission. His future looks bright. Maybe even the NBA!

  • UtahBlueDevil Durham, NC
    July 5, 2011 11:29 a.m.

    At the school I work with each year we have kids that have come through the camp system and end up playing ball for the school. Is the number high - nope.

    My son goes to football camp locally. He is a competitive kid, and loves to play. What he lacks in skill he makes up for his love of playing the game. Each year at camp, he has earned the MVP for his age group. I seriously doubt he will play beyond high school though, he just isn't that good.

    But the main reason I send him to camp is because he loves it. He loves hanging out with other kids that love the sport he loves as much as he does. Some of those kids are very good, and will go far. Others, most likely not. But my son has made friends he has stayed in touch with for years.

    My son is a three sport kid. I don't like the specializing in one sport year round at a young age. Because of those demands he gave up soccer even though he was invited to play on the "elite" traveling team.

    Kids need to be let be kids.

  • Duckhunter Highland, UT
    July 5, 2011 10:56 a.m.

    @Orem Parent

    I actually wish things hadn't gotten to the point they are at where kids specialize in one sport and spend so much time, and their parents spend so much money, doing it. But times have changed. When i was young we just played whatever sport was in season and didn't even worry about that sport the remainder of the year. There have always been some kids that specialized and spent more time than everyone else but they were an exception.

    Now days it is different, it simply is. The thing is each parents needs to be realistic as to the quality of athlete their kid really is. I know this is hard. Every parent thinks their kid is better than he/she really is. It is especially tough if the parent is the coach because that parent will almost always play their kid in the position they want them to play even if they aren't the best player.

    I think it is fine to coach your own kid, I do it, but it is also important to let them play on teams you don't coach and see how other coaches evaluate them, I do that as well.

  • Mom of 8 Hyrum, UT
    July 5, 2011 10:53 a.m.

    The amount of money spent vs. the amount of scholarship awarded? I doubt that in most instances they match. Camps are creating false illusions of potential greatness.

    I taught college freshmen for many years, and so many athletes confided they were completely burned out by the years of camps, competition, and pressure their parents put on them, vicariously hoping for success. A few confessed they were thrilled when debilitating injuries forced them from the sport permanently, so they could focus on something else.

    Sports isn't everything. But it seems a lot of parents still don't understand that.

  • Civil Salt Lake City, UT
    July 5, 2011 10:44 a.m.


    I suggest a follow up to your article. Talk to Craig and Sheri Denney. Few families have been as successful at producing good athletes, students, and children. Their approach is one to learn from.

    Craig and his sons Ryan, John and Brett played at BYU. Ryan and John have NFL careers, playing almost 400 games between them so far. More importantly, they have their priorities right. In response to the question, "It must be exciting to have two boys in the NFL," I heard Craig emphasize his family's priorities, "It is more important to me that they are good husbands and fathers."

    The Denneys boys didn't play football until Junior High (to avoid injury and burnout), nor lift weights until they were 16 (until their bodies matured). They also required each boy to play a musical instrument -- the violin. All three were Academic All-MWC, Ryan academic All-American. I have no doubt they will all have successful post-sports careers.

    Having one successful student-athlete in a family may be the result of that individual's personality and determination. Having three is most likely the result of the family's approach.

    Interview the Denneys.

  • sportsrecruiterpro Salt Lake City, UT
    July 5, 2011 10:36 a.m.

    Your article was spot on. I scout and recruit college baseball. When I look at high school athletes I can tell immediately who has and who hasn't had training. The differences are particularly glaring when I look at high school pitchers. If your young men can pitch get them some help early to develop and strengthen their arms, and if you can afford it send them to some camps. I know for a fact that there is an insatiable demand for pitchers who can throw 80mph+ and that college coaches from as far away as Iowa are asking me for these players. Several college coaches have a great idea who they want on their teams by the time the young man is a sophomore in high school. If its about education, then let your son have some fun playing ball while earning his degree.

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    July 5, 2011 10:20 a.m.

    I have nothing against sports. I played on my high school basketball team. One of my brothers played in college on scholarship. But when junior high/high school sports becomes a business and our kids are the pawns, it has gotten way out of hand.

    Just read the article again and see what the parents are doing.

    I'm a huge BYU fan. I have season football tickets. I understand where it is all coming from. I love to see a good team on the field and I understand what it takes to get there.

    It just made me sad to think of what these kids are going through vs. what I went through.

    However, you are right. Each person/family has to decide what they like and want to do. It isn't for me but that doesn't mean it isn't right for someone else.

  • watchfuleye Cottonwood Heights, UT
    July 5, 2011 10:19 a.m.

    Camps and showcases can be a help but bottom line, if it is obtain a scholarship, the odd's are not in your favor. On the other hand, there are many bad influences in life so keeping your kids active and around other solid children is a good thing. I also think adding to the trips, like mentioned above, is a great thing to do. There are academy's around here that are in it for the money but the showcases they provide, does help. Being honest, whenever your child has a chance to play in front of many colleges at the same time, hopefully one will like them. But it is expensive and ends up being for the rich most of the time. If your kid enjoys them, has some talent, and hasn't been pushed into going, then it is a good thing. If you are signing them up when they really don't want to go, then you are trying to re-live through your child and that isn't good.

  • Civil Salt Lake City, UT
    July 5, 2011 10:02 a.m.


    "You're a grown man that has children? I was under the impression that you were an avid teenage troller."


    "We see the world not as it is, but as we are."
    Seven Habits of Highly Effective People

  • UtahUte16 Salt Lake City, UT
    July 5, 2011 9:56 a.m.


    "That said I have mixed feelings on these camps and also private instruction even though my sons do both."

    You're a grown man that has children? I was under the impression that you were an avid teenage troller.

  • TJ Eagle Mountain, UT
    July 5, 2011 9:54 a.m.

    If your not forcing your child to do these things and your not jeopardizing your financial well being, then camps can be a great benefit for helping build your childs charactar and skill level. I let my kids determine if and where they want to go and I have them participate in the costs at a reasonable level. If they want to go to more than one camp per summer, they have to raise money and participate in the team fund raisers. I also require them to fulfill all of their academic and religious responsibilities before they are allowed to participate in sports, band or any team or club.
    Moderation in all things but allow your child to be what they are or want to be.

  • GoodGuyGary Houston, TX
    July 5, 2011 9:49 a.m.

    Why didn't the article talk aboout some average kids who attends camp after camp, but still not given any college scholarship offer?

  • altahoops Provo, UT
    July 5, 2011 9:27 a.m.

    If the cost of doing these camps includes your retirement and savings, you are not making a wise investment. If you are relying on your kid making the NFL as your retirement plan, you'd probably have better luck throwing your money away in Vegas.

    Sports camps can be a fun experience for kids, help them improve their game, make new friendships, and be seen by coaches, which is very important if you are interested in playing at the college level. But as the article mentions, keep some perspective. If you are overly obsessed with your kid playing professional sports, you are likely doing much more harm than good to the child's overall well-being. Let them go to a couple or three camps a summer. Encourage them to work hard in the off-season. If they are good enough, the college coaches will find them. If not, they will have had some fun experiences and memories and they can play intermurals. Try to force it, and you are asking for trouble.

  • jazzhater Humble, TX
    July 5, 2011 9:24 a.m.

    Not forcing the child goes without saying. I applaud any parent taking an active interest in the development of their child's talent and future (not to mention doing everything possible to get a scholarship for them). There are thousands of non-productive, mindless activities kids are doing during this summer - that's what sad.

  • Duckhunter Highland, UT
    July 5, 2011 8:55 a.m.

    @Orem Parent

    Why? Do you feel that same way for the kids that go to Band camp, spend hours and hours practicing the piano/violin, etc. go to drama camps and spend all summer performing in plays? It seems it is popular among some to pretend that kids spending large amounts of time, and their families spending money, on sports is somehow "sad" or detrimental to the kids but all of the other things kids do are not given the same level of criticism.

    That said I have mixed feelings on these camps and also private instruction even though my sons do both. For one I made a decision not to send my sons to any camps other than our local high school camps until they were in Jr. High and the high school camps are really only good for getting the kids pumped up and excited for the season to start in my opinion. They learn a little bit but not alot.

    The college camps are a little better but it is the private coaching with constant repetition where they really improve. But they have to enjoy it, they have to want to do it. Don't force it.

  • Monsieur le prof Sandy, UT
    July 5, 2011 8:05 a.m.

    Worth it? Who knows?

    If the camps do what they are supposed to do, i.e. take the athlete to a higher level, then they probably are worth it. If the child wants to go and is excited about going, then he (or she) will undoubtedly benefit because motivation is the path to learning.

    However, if it's the parent that pushes/forces the player to go, then that student probably won't have the motivation to go further and the camp's benefits may be wasted.

  • RBN Salt Lake City, UT
    July 5, 2011 7:54 a.m.

    As an investment, roulette may be a better deal. More concerning, however, is the toll on the family and the child's social and spiritual development. A reminder of two admonitions may be helpful. 1) "Thou shalt have no other gods before me." 2) "For where your treasure is, there will your heart be also."

  • Orem Parent Orem, UT
    July 5, 2011 7:33 a.m.

    This whole article just made me sad.

  • Ironmomo Ogden, Utah
    July 5, 2011 6:42 a.m.

    Ive always questioned the cost of sport camps, tutors etc. vs investing that same money in a college savings fund. I think the latter prevails. If your son or daughter is self motivated and does nothing else but eat, drink and sleep a certain sport, then yeah go all out, spend the dough, deplete the savings and retirement accounts and maybe, just maybe it pays off; but always remember its your kids life not yours. I see too many parents trying to live their sports fantasy life through the lives of their children. Use common sense and dont push your children into doing something they have no interest or talent in.

  • Pete1215 Lafayette, IN
    July 5, 2011 5:56 a.m.

    The problem with this article is is does not answer the question it proposes. Are camps worth it for the elite? Definitely. Are the camps worth it for those athletes who are only average? I can't tell from this article.

  • UtahUte16 Salt Lake City, UT
    July 5, 2011 12:13 a.m.

    Some of my best memories were at sports camps. That being said, if a teenagers dedication to the sport has become more like a job, then I think it is unhealthy. It can be a great experience and investment. Getting your schooling paid for is a very admirable and advantageous accomplishment. Sports taught me one thing in life, how to lose graciously. What a valuable lesson it has turned out to be.

  • just-a-fan Bountiful, UT
    July 4, 2011 11:59 p.m.

    I think it's fine to have kids attending these camps so long as it isn't an obsession. If a Dad or Mom can spend time traveling together to these camps and turn it into a trip doing other things along, go for it. My concern comes when it stops being fun as a trip. I've taken my kids to sports camps but we've always hit water parks, amusement parts, or soemthing like that along the way and sports was not the only thing we talked about. I also always talk to my kids about enjoying the journey and not being obsessed with the destination or the end of the line. Now my eldest son is done with sports and onto other aspects of his life but we have great memories. My younger one chose three camps and we're having a blast this summer.