There are a lot of young coaches out there considering whether or not they should take the time out of their busy summer schedules to work a basketball camp (or camps) not associated with their current school at a university or organization (like Five Star or Snow Valley). Conversely, there are also a lot of veteran coaches out there that have either worked camp in the past and have decided that those days are over, or have never worked a camp because they could never find the time. To all of you reading this article…MAKE THE TIME!
Certainly, there are pros and cons to working camp. Looking at the list of typical excuses that coaches give for not working camp: 1.) not wanting to be away from family, 2.) not wanting to take time away from his or her program, 3.) not being compensated fairly for the amount of work that is put in, 4.) not being worth the time and energy, or 5.) just not being interested, it is fair to say that the coaches making these assertions have constructed a strong case for avoiding camps altogether. However, in my ten years of working basketball camps, I have to say that the pros definitely outweigh the aforementioned cons for the following reasons.
Working camp gets you out of your comfort zone
It is very easy for us as coaches to get comfortable. Our life begins to align with our basketball schedule and a routine begins to form. It is imperative that we avoid monotony and continue to challenge ourselves to grow. As we get into coaching a few years and we invest in a particular philosophy and system, we can begin to just accept what we are doing as who we are as coaches. It becomes familiar and we become confident in delivering the content so the desire to learn different systems/concepts begins to fade. The ability to change and adapt are the hallmarks of growth, but the reality is, sometimes we do not see the flaws in our system nor do we think that there is another way to do what we do better.
That is where working camp comes in! By immersing yourself in a world inhabited by basketball coaches from all different backgrounds, you are forced to have those conversations and begin to share ideas and best practices. Inevitably, by the end of the week, you will find that you have something to bring back to your team that you will use for the upcoming season. Further, sometimes working camp will shed light on the fact that your system is not working or there is something out there that may work better. And the great thing is you then have a free clinic to learn the new idea/system/concept as most coaches love to share and help other coaches out and invest in the coaching fraternity.
I can not tell you how many times I met a coach the first day of camp and by mid-week we were connecting for an all-night chalk talk after all the campers were checked in for bed. I have learned things that I implemented immediately and things that I never necessarily applied, however, all of what I learned made me better and, even if I did not apply the concepts to our system, I was better equipped to prepare our team for our opponents.
Working camp is a great networking tool
As we all begin to assess how invested we are going to become in our coaching careers and then determine the sacrifices we are willing to make to “climb the coaching ladder”, we realize that even the best coaches can not get where they want to go alone. Networking the coaching fraternity becomes paramount in navigating your roadmap to success. I have been very fortunate in my time to meet some amazing people working camp and have had some opportunities present themselves because of the contacts I made by networking. Ultimately, regardless of your ambitions, networking the coaching fraternity is a very important asset. For me, I have not left the school I have been at for ten years and I do not see myself doing so, however, that is not to say that I have not had advantages because of the connections I have made. Because of the coaches I have been able to network, I have been able to hold leadership seminars with professional coaches coming to our school to work with our guys. I have had some of the top skills instructors in the world come to our gym and put our guys through workouts. I have had my players benefit in the recruiting process by coaches I have networked with getting my players information out to the coaches in their respective state. And, most importantly, I have a network of coaches that are just a phone call or email away ready to chalk talk or offer advice during the ups and downs of the basketball season.
Some coaches think that networking means just building your career and climbing the ladder. For me, it has become so much more than that. I know I have personally benefitted, and, more importantly, my players have benefitted from my coaching network.
Working camp is a great way to build your brand
In regards to the aforementioned coaching network, we have to understand that in working camps and representing our program the right way, we are building our brand. We are exposing our program to hundreds of coaches and players and, in doing so, we are making it known to the basketball world who we are and what we stand for. That is going to help our players in getting looks to play at the next level. That is going to help when we are ready to take on a new challenge in the coaching profession. That is going to help when potential players ask around about our program.
The perception of any program is based on the standards of the program and the ability of the coach to market those standards. What better way to do so that by wearing our gear and grinding during the summer with coaches and campers from all over the world!
Working camp is a great way to meet like-minded individuals
Honestly, from a personal standpoint, this has become the most important reason for working camp. From working basketball camps and being around so many like-minded individuals, I have developed some of my closest friendships. In working the Duke Basketball Camp the past ten years, I met a coach that has become one of my closest friends. I stood up in his wedding and he stood up in mine. We plan basketball trips every summer and even though he lives hundreds of miles away we have developed a bond that will last a lifetime. Our wives have become friends, our children are now friends, and, he has become someone I know I can call and lean on in any situation that arises, basketball season or not.
The law of attraction states that you attract what you are. We all want to be around like-minded individuals that share the same passions and interests. If you are a basketball coach and basketball is more than a game to you, you want to be around people that share that same passion. Further, once that foundation has been established, a deeper and more authentic friendship can and will begin to form. I had eight groomsmen stand up in my wedding and more than half of them were people that I met through the game of basketball.
Working camp re-invigorates you
After a long season, a busy spring, and the end of the school year, it can be hard to get in the right frame of mind to begin summer ball. Again, that is where working camp can help so much. In getting away from our program for a week, we are able to see that the issues we deal with during the course of the season (that we think are subject to just our program) are happening all over: parent issues, chemistry issues, etc., etc. The ups and downs of a season can be tough to handle, which is why it is nice to get out of our own chaotic world and see that other coaches have the same issues and, even more importantly, we can share best practices to combat the issues.
Further, it is also a huge refresher to be around other players from all different skill levels. What ends up happening is that coaching gets broken down to its most basic, fundamental level: we begin to teach without any agenda. We teach the game solely to aid in the youngster’s development. Playing time is not part of the equation. Reputation is not part of the equation. We just teach to teach and that is why we all decided to become coaches in the first place.
Finally, in working camp, we surround ourselves with an organization or school that operates on standards of excellence. When we are around greatness, we cannot help but rise to the occasion, and in rising to the occasion, we become better coaches. We learn what it feels like to operate at even higher standards than we are used to in our own programs.
Working camp reminds you that the game is meant to be enjoyable!
During the course of a long season, we can forget to enjoy the process. It is nice to get away for a week and to be reminded that we love this game and so do our players. Enjoy the ups and downs, enjoy the daily grind…it is what we all signed up for!