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Camps Rock!

Written By: Alexis Keto

In the spring, coaches hear a lot about athletes looking to get an added edge or perhaps try a new type of camp for the summer or perhaps, just trying something fun! Swim Camps are a great way to give your swimming a little boost as well as meet people from around the country who do something that you do and live the swim life. Swimmers can learn a little more about their sport as well as get an opportunity to experience a college or school campus. There’s a wide variety of options available depending on what your athlete is looking for. When you’re looking for a camp, it’s best to encourage athletes to look for June or even just hit a weekend only camp focusing on a quick refresher! The long course season is really short, so missing a sequence of meets can be tricky - so encourage athletes to have those conversations well ahead of time.

Swimmers should look to get three things out of a camp:

  1. 1-2 technical skills that they can put into practice into the pool

  2. 1-2 “dry” skills – from nutrition to sleep habits to a new physical movement

  3. Meet at least 2-3 new friends from somewhere else that are just as stoked about swimming as they are.

I find that athletes who attend swim camps have renewed focus in the sport and have more passion long term in the sport because they don’t feel that what they choose to do is “weird” because, let’s be honest, looking at a black line for hours at a time while suspended horizontally in a weightless environment (and loving it!!) is kind of strange.

There are four basic types of swim camps -

  1. Weekend Camps - these are usually start/turn focused and great for the older high school athlete as a tune up and/or a way for a younger athlete to try swim camps for the first time who has demonstrated serious interest in the sport. More programs are offering a 3-4 session day camp for athletes to work on specific topics throughout the year, not just the summer. It’s a great option for a quick “tune-up.”

  2. Commuter Camps - these are camps where athletes stay off-site - either at home or at a hotel with their parents and transportation to/from the camp daily is the responsibility of the athlete family. This is usually a much lower cost option and great for parents who need to work, but need the flexibility of a local camp.

  3. Overnight Camps - these are camps where the athletes stay on-site, usually on a college campus. These are all inclusive camps with some small expense for bedding and/or snacks. These are usually the most expensive camps. Sometimes these camps offer intense training options which is a great way to add in some LCM work.

  4. Long Term Training Camps – These are a unique way to provide a solution for a family who cannot accommodate summer training at home due to any number of reasons. An athlete can board for a month with consistent training and meals and supervision & that can be a positive solution to a difficult problem.

Coaches are often resistant to sending athletes away to camp because it disrupts the training in an already abbreviated season. A camp can be a great way to encourage athletes to embrace the sport or find a space for athletes who maybe are struggling with finding their path in the sport rather than evaluating other teams. Be part of the process and set expectations for the camp.

It’s also a great option to have a group of younger athletes go together to grow a bond for future leaders on a team. I’ve had athletes go away to a camp together – and worked with parents to make a “team” experience so that the athletes came back motivated to lead and grow as a team. This works incredibly well with 14 & Unders.

Of course, I work for a team now that has a camp that is a large facet of our program, so I imagine there’s some reticence to think this isn’t financially motivated. At Bolles, our camps have a long tradition of training and technique. Athletes return year after year to experience the Bolles style of training and coaching. It’s a pretty great experience on the coaching side too – I get to work with more kids in a sport I love. I watched one athlete understand the power of a side kick position in freestyle, had a great conversation with another athlete about distance training and another athlete discovered that they could, in fact, kick faster than a minute in a 50m kick. It’s one of those things that makes a long day super special.

Not every athlete will have those moments, but they might find a way to engage that sends them home in a better mental space in the sport than before. Even on a weekend clinic – athletes can find moments that have meaning – what coach doesn’t want an athlete to feel special? Camps are another tool for coaches to use to help athletes improve and find safe mental spaces to explore being a swimmer and help refine their journey in the sport.

Another component is the opportunity for coaches to work at camps. While it may require some added athlete supervision responsibilities, it also gives coaches great experience at running trips and working with new athletes in a limited space in time. This type of experience is a big plus for coaches looking to add to a resume - for pretty much every level of coaching path. It demonstrates ability to work with athletes, helps develop organizational skills for travel and large groups and the opportunity to work with top level coaches in the industry first hand. If a college or program interests you as a coach - reach and ask if they have openings for coaches. If it works out - you’ll learn a lot & get connected with a new coach network.

Coach Alexis Keto believes in the well-rounded, socially-aware athlete and infuses this philosophy into each workout, competition & team endeavor. Each swimmer has the potential to be successful, and she feels that coaches should help swimmers discover their pathways to success and to their goals on a personal and individualized level. Over her 20-plus years of coaching, Alexis has had the good fortune of coaching at every level of the sport - summer league, high school, club and college. In her twelve years at Colorado, the team grew from 4 state qualifiers to 75 state qualifiers, 40+ Sectional qualifiers, Multiple State Record Holders, Junior National (USA/NCSA/ISCA) Qualifiers and National/Olympic Trial athletes. This tradition of excellence continued most recently with New Trier Aquatics with World Championship Trials and Senior National finalists. Perhaps her greatest pride, however, is her ability to use her college coaching/recruiting experience at NC State & Northwestern to help athletes find the perfect college - whether at Division 1 schools or NAIA schools. Over 50 athletes have continued their swimming career at the collegiate level with an impressive number becoming team captains during their college tenure. Every swimmer has something to give to the team and has something to gain from the sport and Coach Alexis is eager to develop all facets of the athlete. She is also actively involved in the development of the sport of swimming at state and national level, currently serving on national committees, formerly very active in the development of the Western Senior Zone Championships and she has held several positions in the Colorado LSC. Her involvement is not just in governance, as she has coached and developed several local, zone and national camps & teams - as part of the task force for the inaugural 2018 Leadership Summit and as head coach of the 2018 Eastern Zone Select Camp. She currently is on the USA Swimming Club Development Committee and the Awards Committee.

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