Building a Successful Camp Program
We recently sat down with Jason Wolfard, Head Coach of Lindbergh High School Basketball for the last 12 years. He has built a successful summer camp program for his community with record 150 kids 2nd-8th enrolled in 2016. He was gracious enough to share some of his experience and advice with us as we gear up for this summer.
2nd thru 5th Grade
3 ½ hours / day
6th thru 8th Grade
1 Week (different week than 2nd-5th)
Runs 3 ½ hours / day
Q: Coach, you have built a successful summer camp program over the last few years. Has your program been building every year? What do you think keeps the kids coming back?
A: Our program has grown every year since I have been here. My goal has been to build a culture and community around the fun of basketball all the way down to the kindergarten level. I want to send every kid home with a smile on his face and the memory of this week being one of the best of his summer.
Q: What do you campers do while they are with you? How do you make it fun?
A: We introduce and build on the fundamentals of basketball, but we do everything we can to make the experience fun for the kids. Everyday we have a 1 on 1 competition, a 3-point contest, and we make sure that at the end of the camp every kid takes home a camp t-shirt and basketball. We want everyone to have fun but also to learn that fun can be achieved through hard work and competition.
We give out 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place trophies for various competitions. I don’t believe in participation trophies; it is not the reality of life and not the reality of the game of basketball that everyone wins every time. The campers arrive with all different levels of ability, so in order to keep everyone working hard, we also give away hustle awards everyday. If I see someone taking charges, diving on the ground, hustling and giving it all, I recognize and award with a ‘hustle award’ t-shirt at the day’s end.
Q: In the beginning you said your goal is to build a culture of basketball. What does that culture look like in a perfect world?
A: Good question. I guess in a perfect world I want this to feel like a family. We help grow and develop children from 2nd grade through high school, and at the end of the day, I want these kids to walk away having learned a lot of things, including teamwork and how hard work and achievement and enjoyment can go hand in hand. They might not all play at the Varsity level, but they can all learn that sports and competition are fun. As part of this, we try to instill our 5 Core Values to all the campers.
Q: Tell us more about your 5 Core Values.
A: That’s easy. 1) Team First. 2) Hard Work (we call this and strive for “Perfect Effort”). 3) Resilience (Don’t Give Up). 4) Humility. 5) Pride.
Q: How important is camp revenue to your overall program?
A: Camp revenue really keeps the program alive. We are a public school with a small budget. Camp not only kicks off our year, but it helps us be a better program all around. If getting new warm ups or uniforms helps athletes feel good about themselves and brings a little pride to the program, I am all for it, and camp revenues help make that happen.
Q: How much do you charge?
A: $80 per athlete
Q: Every coach wants to build a successful camp. What advice would you give them?
A: Don’t be afraid to steal and copycat from the coaches you have worked with or admired in the past. I copied a lot of drills from my coaches Joe Holladay and Scott Padek at Jenks High School in Oklahoma, and I guarantee he is still doing those drills. Take what you like and be creative, ask for advice from other coaches and try new things.
Q: Do you run any conditioning at your camps?
A: No. We play basketball and work hard. I want the kids always moving from one place to the next. Avoiding boredom is very important to me, and to the kids that means movement. At the end of the day, they are all tired and ready for a rest.
Q: What is the biggest personal challenge for you with the camp program?
A: Not being stressed. Getting through the first day is the hardest, but after the first few hours, I begin to relax and enjoy the process, and everything else is a breeze. Before I know it, the week is over, and I’m handing a basketball to every kid on their way out the door.
Q: How do you know you’ve run a successful camp?
A: If I have zero complaints at the end of the camp, I feel like it’s been a good camp.
Q: If you were to capture the style of you and your program, what would it be?
A: Extremely competitive and wanting to make the most out of every moment while remembering this is just a game. Games and competition are fun; this should never be lost to the athlete or the coach.
Q: How do you use your varsity athletes during your camps?
A: I usually have about 4 older athletes at every camp, and 1 or 2 of them manages a grade, which we call leagues. My assistant coaches are also there helping the entire time. Everyone is always very busy, never wanting anyone to get bored.
Q: Sum up your secrets to running a successful camp.
A: 1) Be organized. 2) Have a purpose. 3) Make kids feel like they are a part of something bigger.
Q: How do you organize your program and your camps?
A: I use MaxOne as the central hub of my program and camps. Parents like being organized online, paying online, and the way I communicate with them through the app via text and email. I have my entire program streamlined from 2nd through 12th grade in the app, and it is key to building my program’s culture and success. I love it.
Q: Thank you, coach. Any final thoughts or advice to share?
A: I think we’ve already covered it pretty well, but always remember to have fun. It’s about the kids and their experience and building our community at the end of the day. And using tools like MaxOne really takes a lot of the administrative stress out of the picture so you can focus on what’s important.
You can reach Coach Wolfard directly at JWolfard@LindberghSchools.ws or on Twitter at @FlyersHoopsNews
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