My experience playing club (or “travel”) lacrosse produced some of my most cherished memories that I have in the sport. Competing and winning with my peers are moments that I will never forget and helped mold me into the player that I became. Those days hold a special place in my heart and are still some of my favorites in my 20+ year career. I can recall winning Champ Camp like it was yesterday when I played with the MAB Dawgs back in 2001 (yes, I’m old). Not only do I treasure those memories, but also the lifelong friendships that developed on those teams. Those bonds still exist today and even include some of my groomsmen at my wedding last year.
I also vividly remember watching Casey Powell slicing and dicing Virginia with his Syracuse teammates live on national TV while I was at the Delaware Blue Hen overnight lacrosse camp, surrounded by dozens of amped up players just like me that I had met only days before. Casey was scoring behind the back goals and I was completely in awe of his talent thinking I could never do anything like that. However, that exact camp enabled me to work on every type of shot (including the BTB), meet new players from different areas of the country and exposed me to high-level players and coaches who elevated my game day after day. Years later those skills I honed with hours of practice and careful guidance helped me compete with and against Casey on the professional and international stages.
So, the question remains. Which is better for player development? Summer club teams or overnight lacrosse camps?
There are many benefits of playing for a club team. It is a special honor to be part of a team and to attain the sense of pride and loyalty that comes with forging a culture. You get to work week-in and week-out with the same group to strive for consistency and chemistry. And you are put in real-game situations where you have to play your best to win, often in high-stakes tournaments where losing means you go home early or aren’t seen by the college coaches who hang around the top tier winner’s brackets.
But camp is an opportunity to focus on YOU, to work on your skills and weaknesses, without the pressure of making mistakes. You get the benefit of new coaches, with new coaching styles, new drills and new ways of connecting with players. It also exposes you to a more diverse and a bigger talent pool. A lot of kids at camp were the best players on their team but were small fish in a big pond when all of the top players assembled.
Another benefit to being part of a “travel” club team is in the name itself, the opportunity to travel. Whether it be up and down the East coast, across the Midwest or even to the beautiful scenery of Vail, CO, the prospect of seeing different areas of the country and experiencing unique cultures is invaluable. I had the benefit of visiting the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA in route to the Lake Placid tournament, summitting Pikes Peak in Colorado during the Vail tournament and visiting the US Lacrosse Hall of Fame on one of the many trips to Baltimore during my time as a young high school summer baller.
Going to summer camp was my first experience staying overnight for an extended period of time, and allowed me to live like a college student, even if it was just for the week. Eating all-you-can-eat buffet dinners, learning what to do when you start to get the camp chafe (key: lots of GoldBond) and seeing a college campus inside and out proved invaluable when it came time to actually make my final decision on the school I attended (what up ‘Terps!).
Another element to consider is the exposure you are looking to receive. Back when I played, the main recruiting event was Champ Camp, but nowadays there are many options as the landscape has continued to blossom and expand, for both individuals (camps) and teams (club tournaments). These opportunities are more abundant but so is the talent pool. Going to the right events with your club team can be effective, but your input is limited as the schedule is set by the head coach or program director who may not have your specific interest in mind. Camps often promote the chance to work with or be seen by college coaches but vary in terms of the actual involvement of the coaches or ability to recruit at the events. Ownership needs to be taken by the individual player to make sure he is seen by the appropriate schools that are the best fit for him.
So, if you are a young developing player, what should you do? Overnight lacrosse camps or summer travel club teams? How about both.
At Trilogy Lacrosse, we run the Future Aces, which are in essence, overnight camps FOR club players. These four and five day regional events offer top players in the 2023 – 2025 classes the opportunity to compete in high-level play (all players are vetted by our staff), receive incredible instruction from some of the best coaches in the sport and build up to real-game situations where the skills you have been learning can be put into practice. And, we host off-the-field recruiting seminars and development opportunities like watching game film to ensure it is the complete experience, while the elite college campuses we host the Future Aces at provide the perfect backdrop for making new and lifelong friends from all over the country.
The Future Aces really do offer all of the benefits of both summer club teams and overnight lacrosse camps – they provide a unique opportunity to compete with like-minded peers who have the same goals and aspirations – preparing for the next level of their lacrosse careers.