Strategies for Developing a University-Sponsored Youth Sports Summer Camp: The Success of a Camp Takes Careful Strategic Planning

By Walsh, David | JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance, November-December 2011 | Go to article overview

Strategies for Developing a University-Sponsored Youth Sports Summer Camp: The Success of a Camp Takes Careful Strategic Planning


Walsh, David, JOPERD--The Journal of Physical Education, Recreation & Dance


During the summer, universities leave the opportunity to serve the health, physical activity, and educational needs of youths through on-campus camps. An example is Hellison's (2003) Neighborhood Scholar Program, in which high school students helped run a summer camp for younger students as a form of citizen and career education. Other camps have had various goals from having fun to enhancing psychological and medical benefits (Cutforth & Puckett, 1999; Moons et al., 2006; Newton, Watson, Kim, & Beacham, 2006).

For the past five summers, the Department of Kinesiology at San Francisco State University (SFSU) has run a self-sufficient, fee-based, physical activity and youth sports summer camp on the university campus. The Gator Youth Sports Summer Camp--named after the school's mascot--runs for six weeks in the summer, from 1:00 to 5:00 p.m., Monday through Friday. Boys and girls ages 7 to 14 are separated into four groups based on age and offered a variety of developmentally appropriate sports and physical activities. The groups rotate through four different one-hour stations each day. The camp always begins the first Monday after public school lets out for summer vacation to accommodate parents. It aims to enhance self-esteem and self-confidence through physical activity and sports instruction, in addition to promoting fitness and motor skill development. While we welcome new participants, it is our vision to have as many of the same youths attend the camp every year, further developing their connection with the university and camp instructors, and enhancing their confidence, motor skills, and enjoyment of a variety of physical activities.

The purpose of this article is to provide the "lessons learned" through the development of this camp. When initiating Gator Youth Sports Summer Camp (hereafter, Gator Camp), we underestimated the tasks, university bureaucracy, responsibilities, time, and "nuts and bolts" it would take to make it a successful, ongoing operation. While each university will vary in the details, this article focuses on the administrative components of the camp and does not attempt to address the specific goals, objectives, strategies, and evaluation of the benefits to the participants. However, we do suggest that the primary processes and outcomes align with a positive youth-development approach, by promoting active participation and caring relationships and focusing on the emotional, social, and physical growth of the individuals (Fraser-Thomas, Cote, & Deakin, 2005; Hellison, 2011; Holt, 2008; Perkins & Noam, 2007; Petitpas, Cornelius,Van Raalte, & Jones, 2005).

This article will describe five strategies and considerations for maximizing the success of an on-campus camp: (1) meeting the university's tripartite mission, (2) navigating university bureaucracy, (3) organizing and implementing a marketing strategy, (4) hiring and managing employees, and (5) planning for risk management and safety. In addition, table 1 provides a list of questions to consider when preparing for a camp.

Table 1. Questions in Preparation for Camp

1. What will be the full-capacity instructor-to-child ratio?

2. How many participants will be allowed in the camp in total?

3. Where will the participants get dropped off and picked up?

4. How will a parent pick up a child who needs to leave early?

5. Will nonparents be allowed to pick up the participants?

6. What will be the charge for late pick-ups

7. What is the university refund policy?

8. If a child is not old enough, but is very athletic, can he or she still attend?

9. Are there any other camps at the university or locally that can help create a full-day option for working families?

10. Can families add on more weeks once the camp begins?

11. Will food and/or water be offered?

12. Do the participants need to bring any physical activity equipment? …

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