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.
- 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!