For three hot days, my eight year old participated in the 2015 Florida State University Youth Football Camp. Below is a summary of the good and bad experiences that he (as a participant), and me (as a dad) took away from the experience.
- I’m neutral about Florida State, neither a devotee nor detractor. I’m not star-struck by the name on the jerseys or the coaching staff. While I respect the coaches for what they do, it’s not a fan experience for me. Instead, I wanted my boy to have a good experience that ingrains a further love for football, fitness, and that will give him a favorable memory of his childhood. Further, I was hoping he’d learn something that would make him a better football player.
- This is our first year on the camp scene – I don’t have much to compare our experiences against
Why we chose FSU Football Camp: Last college football season I was flipping through the games and stumbled upon a FSU game. The atmosphere at Doak Walker Stadium was electric, with fans practicing their tomahawk chop – Owen’s eyes got big in a way that only children’s eyes can, as he smiled he exclaimed “What are they doing?!” I explained this was a home game for FSU, and that the fans were doing the Tomahawk Chop. “That’s where I want to play football!” I filed this away, and when we began looking at football summer camps, this one was at the top of our list.
About FSU Camp:
- Location: Tallahassee, Florida (FSU football athletic facilities)
- Ages: 3rd – 8th graders
- Dates: Sunday June 7 – Tuesday June 9
- Cost: overnight campers paid $315
- Camp Details: We opted for the overnight camp. The camp had a daily schedule that looked something like this, just shorter on first/last day.
- 8am: Wake-up/Get Dressed/Eat
- 9a-1p: Football Drills
- 1p-2p: Lunch
- 2p-5:30: More Football Drills
- 5:30-6:30: More Eating
- 6:30-8:30: More Drills
- 8:30-9:30p: Watching Video
- 10:30p: lights out
- What each overnight camper had to bring
- Sheets, workout gear, football cleats, basketball shoes
- What they didn’t tell us to bring: snacks/drinks to put in the camper refrigerators. I didn’t think to leave a phone with my 8 year old for him to call home if he got homesick, but I wish I had. The policy said that children who got home could speak to the chaplain.
Things that made this experience great
- Great website. I was easily able to register my camper; camp schedule and contact information was readily available
- When I did have a question, I emailed the contact and immediately received a response
- Facilities were impressive, and this wow factor is just one reason this came with a pretty hefty price tag
- Instruction from FSU coaching staff and top high school coaches
- Coaching was very organized and progressed through drills as quickly as could be expected
- Campers competed against kids they don’t normally see from all around
Things that would make the experience better
- Camper Safety – because my camper was 8, and this was his first trip from home, I was worried about him. When we picked him up, we simply met him and left after checkout – nobody checked to see who he left with. Perhaps I’m a bit hypersensitive or I’ve watched too much Dateline, but what’s to keep someone with bad intentions showing up and leaving with a child?
- Tell us to show up on time for registration – the email I got when I registered said that we should arrive “between 11a-2p for camper registration.” Since we had to drive 3 hours to get there, this allowed us time to do that and to stop and give our boy a nice lunch before he went to camp, since lunch wasn’t part of the schedule for the first day. The result of us showing up at 1 is that we rushed around to get everything done that had to be done, all of which involved long lines:
- Camper gets a picture with Coach Jimbo Fisher – we ran out of time for this, and was told there would be make-up times; however, we didn’t receive a picture. Like I said, I’m not a fan of the school, but I think this would’ve been a cool memoir to have.
- Pizza – if you wanted your camper to have this special treat, you had to pay additional money.
- Parking pass
- Sign our camper up for a team for the 7 on 7 games (AKA ‘Nole Ball)
- Pictures- I was not there most of the camp. It would’ve been nice if they employed a photographer who took videos and pictures and posted them someplace so that they could be viewed.
- Reduce the number of kids per station/drill –there were a lot of kids to each coach, and lots of coaches; kids were doing lots of waiting for their turn to perform a drill. As a coach, I know this is something that will get you in trouble – kids get easily distracted and need to be focused to improve.
Here is some feedback from my boy:
- Two of the coaches were “mean”, and he was shocked & appalled that the coaches used foul language. He insisted they shouldn’t curse (“especially around children), including (in his words) “The F-bomb”
- His team didn’t even make the “playoffs” – which meant on the day that I arrived to pick him up the “championship game” was going on and he was watching other kids play.
Thanks for reading. I’ll be posting a review of our trip to the University of Southern Mississippi for their youth football camp in the near future