Coaching Perspective: 2019 Summer Youth Basketball Season Review

emerald coast basketball
2019 Summer ECB. Mom and Owen (12)

Every year I learn and grow as a coach, this season was no different.  After many seasons of promising myself to write a review of the season, I finally have committed to doing it, and if you’re reading this, I did it.  I’m going to review what my goals were prior to the 2019 Summer Basketball season, what I learned this season, and a few special notes about the season.

After several years of coaching basketball for each of my son’s teams in various sports, this summer I had the pleasure of coaching my two oldest sons in basketball on the same team.  I’ve coached winter basketball at our local sports association for the last several years, and as the dad of 4 boys, we’re busy throughout spring, fall and winter sport seasons; we’ve always tried to take summer off to rest and recharge.  This spring 2019 my twelve-year-old had been playing travel-basketball for a local travel team, Emerald Coast Basketball, or ECB.  As spring passed and summer wore on, the end of travel basketball season was upon us, and I had heard there were signups available for summer basketball.

One age group would be 12-15, and it just so happened that my oldest was 15 and his brother was 12.  I knew right away I wanted to coach them; however, I had a business trip coming up, we had a family vacation planned right in the middle of the season, among other things – so I called my friend Larry to see if he would be willing to help and fill-in when I couldn’t be there.  Larry coached with me this past winter and has become a really close family friend.  As always, Larry stood right up and stood right in – off to summer basketball we would roll.

Over the years, I’ve learned there are things I like to teach and coach, many of them are about the specific sport, many of them are about life, and usually there is overlap.  I’ve coached some talented kids through the years, but my goal is to not only turn out great team players who can execute the fundamentals of the game, but also better kids on the other side of each sports season.  Here is a small list of things I like to teach the athletes on my team each season, in no particular order:

  • Always play hard.  Things are rarely as bad as they seem, and most things can be overcome
    summer basketball players
    Owen (12) and Jackson (15)

    with continued effort.

  • Be a great teammate.  Encourage those with less ability and practice than you’ve had – someday, you will be the less talented or the new-comer, and you’ll love when other’s encourage you.
  • Give your best effort all the time.  Consistency is an undervalued asset – be consistently good at what you do.
  • Listen to your coaches. Learning to follow instructions has great reward in life, and is an undervalued asset.
  • Really learn to love the game – if you can do that, you’ll always play and have fun.  Kids stop playing sports when it’s not fun anymore.
  • If you’re early, you’re on time.  Don’t be late to practice or games, your team depends on you.  If coach asks you to be there at 7, show up a 6:50.
  • Talent is God’s gift to you, hard-work is your gift to God.  Few are born with the talent of a professional athlete – talent has it’s own reward, it will earn you opportunity.  Hard work will never get your foot in the door, but it will make you stand out if you’re ever given the opportunity.  Every team in every sport has players who aren’t the greatest athletes or players in their sport – but they hustle, they make those around them better, they’re good teammates, they are great listeners, and they maximize their talent through hard work.

There’s more to this list probably, but this is a good start, and the ones that stick out to me most right now. This season I wanted two things to come from practice – our team would be conditioned and we would learn to play great defense.  Playing sports means putting in the work to gain the fitness to play, learning how to stay fit, and learning it’s your duty to be fit – it’s not a punishment, it’s the cost of doing business.  Good players don’t complain about running or workouts – they understand they’re making themselves better for the team – and the side effect is that they get better as individuals.  Learning to push through when your ready to quit, that’s a life skill these athletes learned this season.

Defensively, we installed a 2-2-1 full-court press, and we pressed much of the season, even too much.  A thing I learned this year is that we don’t have to put great pressure on full-court all the time.  After our sixth game, which happened to be a frustrating loss, I realized we could’ve won if I’d had played more half-court zone, and threw the full-court pressure on in waves.  The reminder of the season we did that well, and I’m glad to have finally learned this lesson.  Defensively, I preached about arms out, trapping, knowing where the ball, your man (in your zone) and the basket is all the time.  We coached them up on rebounding.  fundamentally, we were a solid team, and I think we could all be proud of that.

Here’s a list of things I will carry with me for the years to follow:

  • Fitness – we will be fit, and fitness can be fun, but it doesn’t have to be.  Part of playing athletics is putting in the work to make sure your body is ready.  I will make certain you get tired, that is my job.
  • Defense – the most important skill in basketball is learning to play defense as a team.  Spend lots of time on defense at practice, don’t worry about coaching offense, that will come.
  • Kids don’t have to like me.  I will win every argument and you will learn to listen and be respectful – not because I’m mean, but because each athlete needs to learn to be coachable, teachable, and they need to learn to have a boss, to follow before they lead.  It’s my duty as coach to teach each athlete to be coachable.  It’s been my experience that when I encounter an athlete who hasn’t yet learned this lesson well enough, it can take a couple seasons to really knock that door down and to change their mentality, but it changes, and it’s always the best outcome for their life.

Jackson is my oldest son, and he’s incredibly smart and funny and handsome – he’s a great kid.  Athletically, he has struggled at times – this season he gained so much confidence, and worked incredibly hard – and he had a game that was amazing as a dad to watch and be a part of.  I’m so incredibly proud of my son, after many battles, to see him win one.  This is a memory that will endure forever for me, it’s one of the best memories I have of my son, and I loved every single moment of it.  Later he confided in me that it was probably the most fun he’s had on a sports team.  That made me glow on the inside.

Thanks once again to AppRiver for sponsoring this seasons team, and to all the parents and grand-parents and others who got the boys to practice, who volunteered to keep score during the games, and who encouraged their athlete throughout the season.  I’m exceptionally proud of this summer’s team – all the athletes grew and developed, coaches learned, we had a lot of fun, and we managed to win some games.  A fun season, one that I will remember, like always, until my very last days.

 

2017 Jimbo Fisher Youth Football Camp

For the third consecutive year, my 10 year old attended the Jimbo Fisher Youth Football camp in Tallahassee, Florida.  I’m sharing our experience to document it, as well as help others as they prepare in their journeys.  Feel free to email me if you’ve any other questions: jasonofflorida@gmail.com.

Disclaimer: I’m not a Florida State fan.  Our family, like so many in Florida, is a transplant – however, my son will always know this as his home.  He has become a fan, and has told me he even hopes to go to FSU someday.  This is definitely a fan experience.

Basic Information

Dates: June 11 -13, 2017

Location: FSU Indoor/Outdoor practice facilities, as well as Doak Campbell Stadium (all adjacent and on FSU campus)

Ages: entering 3rd-8th graders (8-13)

Cost: Overnight camp is $350, Day Camper is $275.

  • We chose the overnight camp
  • Cost for overnight camper has risen from $315 in previous years

Registration Process

The camp director sends emails once you sign up giving you all the information you need.  However, here are some hacks to help you through the registration process that I’ve learned over the last couple of years.

  • arrival time – they tell you camp registration is 11a-2p, which implies you can show up anytime between 11a-2p. What they should tell you is to show up at 10am and get in line for registration.  Registration process will keep you there (on your feet) until 3pm.
  • pre-registration – if you sign-up online and bring in all the forms, you can quickly advance passed some of the people who are signing up that day.
  • Registration
    • Station 1: they verify your pre-registration
    • Station 2: they collect the required consent forms
    • Stations 3 & 4: this is for campers who haven’t pre-registered.  you can skip these stations.
    • Station 5: Get your campers t-shirt and put it on them
    • Station 6: Get a parking pass
    • IMG_6053

      IMG_6052

      Station 7: Badge pickup and Team Assignment – each camper is assigned to a 7-on-7 “Nole Ball” team aptly named after NFL football teams.  They’re also given a lanyard with their name.

    • Station 8: Height & Weight is measured and written on name badge
    • Station 9: Vertical Jump – your camper gets to see how high they can jump (I’ve never seen them measure them run the 40 yard dash or broad jump).
    • Station 10: Picture with Coach Fischer.  Jimbo is busy, he’ll show up when he’s first able – so you will be waiting in this line for a while.
    • After the picture, you need to take your camper and all his gear over to the dorm where he will be staying.  There are maps showing which dorm your camper will be staying in – I usually get back in my car and drive over.
    • Dorm – there are signs directing you where to check-in; your camper will be given another lanyard with a key to their dorm.  They must keep their lanyards around their necks at all times.

      IMG_6063

      • unpack your campers gear, stock their fridge, make their bed. Make sure they know where the bathroom is, and they remember their room number.
      • let them lock/unlock their door several times if they’re a young camper like mine is.
    • Dorm Meeting 2:30 or 3:00pm: a coach will briefly go over the rules of the dorm, then say goodbye – your camper will depart the dorm and return to the practice facilities to begin camp.

Additional Expenses

  • parking pass – you can purchase these so you can park on campus (ticket free). they’re an additional $8.
  • pizza – you can purchase tickets for overnight campers to order pizza to their rooms, the cost is $20 for 2 pizzas.
  • spending money – I never leave spending money for my camper.  If you wanted to, they could *use* it on the vending machines in the dorm
  • they have mini fridges in the dorm. Buy your camper a few drinks and snacks they would like and put them in the fridge.

Watching Camp

If you plan on hanging out and watching your camper for a portion or all of the camp, here are some tips:

  • bring a foldable lawn chair and save your feet
  • be prepared to walk a lot between the indoor and outdoor practice facilities, as well as the stadium.
  • find your camper when they first arrive in the facility and stick with them – all these kids look alike y’all, and there are hundreds and hundreds of them spread all across the facility.

Who will coach your kids?

  • every kid is divided into groups based upon their position.  They will stay with their age-specific position coach the entire camp.  I think most of these coaches are Grad Assistants or other assistant coaches.
  • every kid is on a ‘Nole Ball (7 on 7) team.  The same coaches will see them everyday.  I think many of these coaches are FSU Players or GAs.
  • There are high school coaches helping out Jimbo’s staff – these are really great coaches to have around
  • The Head Coach and his higher level assistants float around the camp.  Jimbo can be seen driving his golf cart – he’s very approachable (and I’d say even likes to speak with fans, and he obviously likes talking to the athletes.  Each of these big dogs will talk and give advice to many kids (and they know who they are and they’ll listen).

Daily Camp Schedule:

  • 8:00 am Wake Up
  • 8:15 am Breakfast – Fresh Foods (cafeteria)
  • 9:00 am Depart Fresh Foods
  • 9:20 am Position Meetings- Take Roll
  • 9:30 am Flex (stretch)
  • 9:40 am Session Drills
  • 4th Quarter Drills (20) (Off Drills/Def Form Run)
  • Break (5-10)
  • Individual Positions (35)
  • Break (5-10)
  • Routes on Air/ Defensive Coverages/Technique (10)
  • 1 on 1’s/Sub-Groups (15)
  • Group (7 on 7) (15)
  • Break (5)
  • 11:45 am Nole Ball Games
  • 1:00 pm LUNCH
  • 1:00 pm FSU Staff Meeting
  • 1:50 pm Depart Fresh Foods
  • 2:10 pm Position Meetings-Roll
  • 2:15 pm Make Up Pictures
  • 2:20 pm Flex
  • 2:30 pm Session #3
  • 4th Quarter Drills (20) (Off Form Run/Def Drills)
  • BREAK (5)
  • Individual Positions (30)
  • BREAK (5)
  • 1 on 1’s/Sub-Groups (15)
  • Group (7 on 7) (15)
  • BREAK (5)
  • 4:05 pm 2 Nole Ball Games
  • 5:30 pm Dinner – Fresh Foods
  • 6:00 pm FSU Staff Meeting
  • 6:40 pm Gather and Walk Over from the Dorm
  • 7:00 pm ‘NOLE BALL Games
  • 8:30 pm Highlight Video – IPF
  • 10:30 pm Lights Out

Other Things to do while you’re there

Eat at Momo’s Pizza – GIANT slices of pizza and so good

IMG_6179IMG_6178

See the National Championship Trophies in Moore Athletic Center

IMG_6167

2017 Camp in (other) Pictures

IMG_6054

IMG_6059IMG_6113IMG_6114

Little brother tagged along on drop off and pickup days.  He’ll be going next year when he’s 8!

IMG_6151IMG_6165IMG_6064

 

Football Camp Growth Chart (2015-2017)

2015 Camp.png2017camp.pngIMG_6053.JPG

 

Letting My Child Swim, or Sink – a tale of football, failure, and (hopefully) perserverance

A few months ago my oldest son, Jackson, told my wife and I that he wanted to play football.  Jackson (11), is the oldest of our boys – his 8 year old brother loves football and has played it into his 4th season now, and Seth (5) is trying it on for size in his first season.  Jackson is a good athlete, but hasn’t learned what it takes to win, and worse, is really bad at losing and often has a negative attitude about all things new.  For that and other reasons, his mom and I discussed the commitment of the season, the collisions involved, the work of practices (which are more frequent and intense than soccer and basketball) – frankly, I tried to talk him out of it.  Personally, I was excited he wanted to try something new and because I knew if he didn’t try football soon, he would miss the window of learning the fundamentals and the life lessons it teaches.  “Maybe he’ll take to it and really find something he enjoys!” I thought.  However, his mom and I braced ourselves for the worse and seeminly inevitable “I hate football and want to quit” and the crying when he got tackled, and worse, the other kids (and parents) ridiculing him (and us) over his behavior.  I talked to the man who would be his coach and explained our situation; he was a seasoned coach who understood the predicament, and I was comfortable that he could handle him well.  We signed him up and begin mentally preparing ourselves and Jackson for the challenges to come.

In an effort to help him gain some conditioning, he and I (and his brothers) went on a run-streak starting in early June.  Our deal was that we walked/ran 1 mile every day for 30 days, and at the end of thirty days I would give them $30 each.  The caveat was that they must complete the full 30 days, so they couldn’t quit at some point and collect a portion of their earnings – it was $30 or bust.  Jackson was the only one of his brothers who completed the streak with me, and by the end of the month he was running the whole mile!  Now I know that running a mile a day wouldn’t prepare him for stardom, but I wanted to do something that would give him a fighting chance.  While there were days it was a battle (and many when I felt like he was giving less than his best effort), I was proud of him for sticking with it and completing the streak.

Jackson looked forward to his first practices.  The first week or two is mostly conditioning and getting used to equipment.  He always told us he was looking forward to practice, and never gave us a hard time about going.  This was a small victory in and of itself.  His effort at practice was, in my estimation, lacking.  I was not a great athlete, heck, I wasn’t even a good athlete – so I wasn’t expecting the apple to fall far from the tree, but I do expect my boys to give their best effort, and I just wasn’t seeing it.  However, he was showing up, following direction, and participating as well as most of the other boys.

Every football coach knows there are some kids where football just isn’t for them.  This usually materializes fairly quickly in the second or third week of practices when contact begins.  There is the kid that cries endlessly. There is the kid who does everything he can to avoid contact.  When Jackson’s team started contact, about half the players were new to football, so the coaches did a good job of easing them in.  I was reassured.

Jackson is one of the smaller boys on his team; I was expecting him to cower from the contact, but what surprised me that he wasn’t giving even close to his all at sprints, running, and other fitness drills; he was half-assing it.  He didn’t do awful in tackling drills, but I heard his whimpers when I did see his practices (I was coaching his brother for the first hour of his practices), and mom informed me on more than one occasion that he was not having a good practice.  At the end of practice they ran sprints up and down the sideline and around the goal, then stop, then sprint again.  Jackson was always one of the last, usually staying with guys who had 90’s on their jerseys (these are often the husky kids).

I’ve worked hard on not criticizing his performance (though I have a long ways to go), and I’ve stopped punishing him over his pitfalls in sports – I’ve stuck with the mantra that this (sport) is for him and not me.  He should be having fun – I don’t want him to hate the game/sport (and in my mind losing things you really enjoy to do things you may not enjoy is not a recipe for positive reinforcement).  I want him to love sports, to have fun, to gain fitness, to learn life lessons, to meet new people and make new friends.

His mom and I watch from the sidelines as he’s jogging while all the other kids are sprinting, and he’s back-peddling as the opposing linemen is pushing him back – I’m disappointed in his effort.  But again, I have to remind myself that I won’t punish him for sports.  Instead, I would talk to him about his effort, only to hear him tell me he’s trying his hardest, and that he cried because that tackle hurt, and so on.

After a few weeks of practice, his team had a scrimmage.  The coach finally put him in for the last minute where he saw 2 snaps.  He had no idea what to do, or was most likely scared to do what he knew he was supposed to do.  He embarrassed himself, and was lucky not to get hurt.  The next week he gave the same effort, and one night I watched a practice where I reached my limit with watching his effort.  I consider myself a hard-working man and a good dad; I was embarrassed of his level of ‘effort’ (and tired and frustrated with other things in my life), and so I berated him after practice.  I was angry, upset, and hurt that he just wasn’t trying hard enough.  Now, I could go into detail here, but I don’t need to – he was giving the least amount of effort possible – he was just showing up.  I said a lot of things on that ride home I’m ashamed of, I hurt him with my words; his brother, a passenger, was upset at me, his mom – who was waiting at home – was hurt and angry at me.  I was angry at me, I was hurt that I hurt him.  I was a frustrated dad who was running out of answers – how do I motivate this child?

I fear raising a child who will be unemployable, one who will rely on the kindness of others just to get by.  I fear my child not becoming a positive, contributing member of society.  I’d rather be hard on him and he hates my guts when he’s grown then to give him a pass and let him be a quitter who doesn’t give the effort required in this life.  I love him and want what is best for him, I am not afraid to be the bad guy when I’m backed into a corner – but on this night, I went too far.

In the second and last preseason game.  Jackson did not play, not a minute.  He stood there on the sideline in his pristine uniform.  He did pay attention the whole game, and even cheered when his team scored.  This was an improvement; his previous game he just kicked the grass and walked around not even showing the slightest interest in the game going on.  His mom, brothers and I sat and cheered on his team.  The dad in me wanted to shout “get my boy in (I’m not here to watch these other kids)!” – the coach and father in me knew the truth; putting him in would be dangerous for him and the other boys on the field; He still doesn’t know his assignment, he would run in and potentially be unaware or out of position and get hurt or get someone else hurt.  This had happened in practice when he was being blocked and was back peddling when a receiver who was running his route, crashed into him violently.  More than anything, rewarding his behavior would show him he could half-ass practices and still see the field on game day.

I started encouraging my boys to keep goal journals (okay, I make them fill them out once a week).  They write one school goal and one football goal.  I want to show them to work towards tiny goals to get a lot better over time.  I asked Jackson if he wants to go through the practices (which typically aren’t super fun), and then stand there on the sidelines on game day – he answers with a resounding no.  Jackson wants to play.  He still looks forward to practices, and really looks forward to games (though he’s played a total of 2 snaps in 2 preseason games) Hell, his mom and I want to watch him play in games.  But I can’t fault his coach, and I can’t fault his parents – as the saying goes, you can lead a horse to water, and we’ve done that.  He is 11, and the effort is up to him, he will sink or swim when it comes to football, and for that matter, other things in his life.  Only he can choose to do the work to become successful, or live the life of someone who won’t.

The last 2 Sundays, we’ve lined up his 8 year old brother against him and go through some additional tackling practice to help him get accustomed to the contact and have faith in the tackling skills he’s learned.  I encourage him, and talk to him about working hard, about giving the effort for his teammates, coaches, and family.  I remain hopeful and faithful to the fact that being consistent and letting him earn his way will make him a better man someday – even if that means mom and I have to root for his teammates while he stands on the sidelines.

In youth sports, children often get participation trophies.  In life, there are few rewards for people who show up and participate – and I desperately want him to learn that lesson.  It is hard to watch, and the dad in me is shouting for him to see some playing time – but life comes first – he has to work harder to be rewarded.

My Review of the University of Southern Mississippi Youth Football Camp

My eight year old participated in the 2015 University of Southern Mississippi 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.

Disclaimers:

  • I’m neutral about Southern Miss, 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.  My only other comparison was the Florida State University youth football camp, which I wrote about here.

Why we chose USM Football Camp: After my son’s camp at Florida State, we were anxious to try another camp out. This camp fit the criteria of 1)within driving distance to our home 2)affordable 3)reputable and 4)It fit our schedule.  Since his mom and I both work full time, and we have a family vacation planned in the near future, we needed to find a camp that wouldn’t require us to miss work.

About USM Camp:

  • Location: Hattiesburg, Mississippi (USM football athletic facilities)
  • Ages:  3rd – 8th graders
  • Dates: Monday June 15th 9a – 5p
  • Cost: $50
  • Camp Details:
    • 8a-9a: Registration
    • 9:30a-9:45a: Group picture
    • 9:45a-1p: Football Drills
    • 1p-2p: lunch (catered by Jimmy Johns)
    • 2p-5p: Football Drills
    • 5p-530: Awards & camper dismissal
  • What each camper had to bring
    • workout gear and football cleats
  • What they didn’t tell us to bring: they covered all the bases

Things that made this experience great

  • I was easily able to register my camper; contact information was readily available (more on this below under “things that would make the experience better”)
  • Facilities were impressive at this mid-major program.  The boys got to spend the first couple of hours in the stadium
  • The coaches were very approachable and nice to the campers
  • Parents could view the entirety of the camp, or had the option to leave their camper to the care of the staff.  I dropped my camper off then came back late in the afternoon to view the last couple hours.
  • Instruction from USM coaching staff
  • The boys were told they could ask for a water/bathroom/other break anytime they wanted.  They were not expected to “tough it out”.
  • Everyone got a group photo of all the kids and the coaching staff
  • There were only 15-20 kids per age group.  This was a manageable group for the kids to break into and still be involved and coachable.  More than that, the coaches moved quickly and had multiple kids involved in each drill. Several coaching stations were set up and the kids were rotated every 20 minutes or so to keep things moving along and fresh.

Things that would make the experience better

  • The presentation of the website was good, as you might expect from a mid-major university.  However, there was not a detailed camp schedule.  This concerned my little camper, as this was only his second football summer camp, and it would’ve been helpful for him to know what to expect.  I told him what I knew: we’ll register, he’ll do drills and then eat lunch then do more drills.  We drove 3 hours to get to the camp (we stayed Sunday night in a hotel then drove home Monday evening).  I did some work from the hotel, so It would’ve been nice if I would’ve known the schedule so I would’ve known when events were occurring that may interest me.
  • When I did have a question, I emailed the contact and did not receive a response.  I registered my camper on Friday morning and the camp began the following Monday – perhaps my lateness was a reason.  However, it could’ve been a good reason for me not to register.
  • Learning from our previous experience at FSU, we showed up at 8am for registration – this was a mistake.  We simply had to wait for an hour until all the other campers showed up.  We were “entertained” with football videos from you tube that weren’t even specific to the university.  At a minimum, perhaps they could’ve played highlights from USM season/s.
  • Pictures- while the group picture was great, it would’ve been a nice personal touch if the coach/es would’ve taken an individual picture with each kid – perhaps as we waiting watching YouTube videos for an hour.  Or they could’ve taken the kids measurements (what parent doesn’t want memorabilia to save on the height, weight, wing-span, vertical jump, et cetera).
  • Camper Safety – 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?
  • The awards ceremony was a bit unorganized and the kids were impatient and a little rowdy, especially at the end

Here is some feedback from my boy:

  • The coaches didn’t curse – my 8 year old was taken back by the language of a couple coaches of the FSU camp.
  • They had to stop the camp at 4:30 due to lightning.  My boy was happy they got everyone in and away from the lightning.
  • “I liked the USM football camp becuse the coaches were nice.  In 2016 i would like to go there again!”
  • “I realy like that football camp!” “thank you!”

Thanks for reading.  We really enjoyed this one day camp and look forward to attending again in 2016!

My Review of the Florida State University Youth Football Camp

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.

Disclaimers:

  • 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