I’m sure that a lot of our college-aged and older readers will be out in full force coaching at lacrosse camps this Summer. Now that I have my first week of camp under my belt, I want to share Three Tips for Coaching at Summer Lacrosse Camps. These tips will make you a better coach, help the players you coach learn more, and improve your chances of being asked back next year… most likely with a raise!
1) Research – Know Thy Camp!
You should always know what is going to be expected of you at camp. Will you be coaching only, or will you also be responsible for getting the kids to breakfast and making sure they’re in bed by curfew? Will you be riding a bus with day campers? Does the camp require you to do camper evaluations on the last night? How much will you be paid?
The list of questions goes on and on. If you’ve never done a camp before, you should definitely find someone who you think is responsible and ask them what they do to prepare. If the camp doesn’t have air conditioning, you definitely want to bring a fan. If there is no store nearby, stock up on bottled water and snacks beforehand. Bring plenty of underwear and socks. Bring extra string to fix sticks. Bring a book for downtime.
Create a checklist of things you’ll need, and ask questions. Email the director, talk to someone who did the camp last year, think back to your own camp experiences. Otherwise you’re going in blind and you will forget to bring a pillow, get dehydrated, develop a rash, get cranky and effectively be the worst coach ever. You don’t want that, now do you?
2) Teaching & Coaching – Assume NOTHING!
You just spent 5 minutes explaining the West Genny drill to a group of campers. Then you send them out to do it and they have NO IDEA what to do. They all nodded along with you when you were explaining it, but when they got on the field, it was chaos. That wasn’t the kids’ fault. It was yours, because you assumed they knew what you were talking about because of some head nodding.
After each instructional period, check in with the kids. Ask them if they have questions. If you get silence in response, pick out 3 or 4 kids and ask them if they understand what you were talking about. If this still only results in head nods, ask them some real questions about what they just learned. More often than not, before you get through all of that, a kid’s hand will shoot up and he’ll ask a great question.
The pressure to fake understanding is immense when you’re in a group of relative strangers. No one wants to seem behind, even at instructional camps, so sometimes you really have to draw it out of the campers. But when you do, the results will be better, and your coaching mojo will be in full swing.
3) Enjoy Doing Your Job!
This one is so basic, but surprisingly, it is often missed. The campers have almost always paid good money to come to the camp, and the counselors are usually paid pretty good money to coach as well. There is no reason to be salty or disrespectful, and nothing kills a camp vibe quicker than a prima donna coach or a guy with attitude.
I’ve seen no-name college players working as Summer counselors that could turn a camp around in amazing ways with their energy and passion for the game. It really is contagious. I’ve also seen top level D1 assistant coaches absolutely crush freshman in high school by saying “quit now, you’re awful.” Usually the latter guys are slobs (still stuck in their college glory days) whom the game has passed by, but the kids still respect them and take their word incredibly seriously because they don’t know any better.
So ask yourself, what kind of counselor you want to be… Are you the guy turning kids off to lacrosse? Are you reinforcing outdated dogma? Or, are you the guy reminding kids that there are over 500 college teams out there when you include varsity and club? That with hard work, they too can find a place to play?
I am not advocating for counselors to paint a picture of roses, rainbows and ponies. But I am advocating for counselors to help the kids no matter what. In the end, that’s why you’re there, it’s why you’re getting paid, and if you claim to love the sport of lacrosse, it’s the least you can do.
Being a coach at Summer lacrosse camps is an honor. You’re helping to form the next generation of lacrosse players, and more importantly, you are helping to craft the young men (and women) of the future. By entering a camp prepared, truly teaching the game, and genuinely enjoying it, you’ll be doing your part and probably making a great name for yourself in the process.