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Five mistakes wrestlers and parents make when choosing a summer wrestling camp

When picking the best summer wrestling camp there are a few things to consider and a few things to avoid. The goal of a wrestling camp should be able to provide a new training opportunity that fits your budget, wrestler’s goals and needs. And it should be fun – but it should challenge and push the wrestler. That’s why parents are busy researching the best wrestling camps in the nation and pouring over web sites and brochures trying to find out what is the best wrestling camp to choose.

That’s where the idea for The Ultimate Guide to Wrestling Camps was developed. As the former editor of an award-winning amateur wrestling web site, I heard it all the time from parents and wrestling fans. What is the best wrestling camp out there? What age should I start sending my kid to wrestling camp? What do you know about the J Robinson Intensive camps ? What do you know about Oklahoma State Wrestling Camps? How about Rob Koll’s Cornell Wrestling Camps? What have you heard about Ken Chertow Wrestling Camps? What do you think is better, sending your child to the same camp year after year, or mixing it up and going to a smaller local camp or traveling across country to a big, nationally known camp, such as say, Iowa wrestling camps, or Cael Sanderson’s Penn State Wrestling Camps?

Flip through any magazine or publication this time of year and it’s almost overwhelming. There are ads galore promoting wrestling camps. And you know what? They all look good! They all look like they could fit the opportunity you as a parent or wrestler are searching for. For many, the key to picking a wrestling camp is often location, cost and instructors. Those are good reasons no doubt, but let’s look at some factors to consider and some mistakes to avoid:

Mistake #1 – picking a wrestling camp because your best friend or regular training partner wants to go to that camp

This makes sense, right? You want to go to camp and not feel out of place. So going somewhere where there is a comfort level – knowing you will have your workout partner or best friend there with you seems like a no-brainer, right? Not necessarily. When picking a wrestling camp, choose one that is going to challenge your wrestler. Call the camp and ask how many kids are registered at your son or daughters weight class, or around that weight class (taking into consideration weights fluctuate in the offseason). You don’t want to get stuck working out with your regular workout partner. You can do that at your school any day of the week. You want to find workout partners who can challenge you and provide you with a new experience. That’s what camp is about, getting a new experience. This is an extreme case, but let’s say your best friend is a lighter weight, where there are typically more wrestlers. And you are a heavyweight, maybe even a bit inexperienced and big for your age. If you go to a camp where there are only a few big men, mostly older and more physically mature, you will not be able to train/workout with many new or different partners. While the goal of a camp is to learn, learning and applying what you learn is important. If you are a young wrestler make sure you are not going to a camp with kids who are much more advanced than you. Sure, you want the challenge but you don’t want to lay on your back during all the workout sessions counting lights on the ceiling.

Mistake #2 – Picking a camp based on a big name clinician

Who wouldn’t want to go to a camp where Dan Gable is a speaker? Or perhaps Jordan Burroughs is a guest clinician one day. Or maybe it’s Cael Sanderson, Jake Varner, Kellen Russell, Sam Hazewinkel, Luke Becker, Jesse Krebs or any local or national standout. Who wouldn’t want to meet or get a chance to be in the room with the best of the best? However, if they are only going to be there for say, one afternoon out of 5 days, be sure the rest of the camp still fits your needs. Explore all options, understand the whole camp program to get a strong overall understanding of the camp. Don’t let one big name be the determining factor. Ask what role that one person will have in the overall camp experience.

Mistake # 3 – Dismissing the local camp/small camp

Not everyone can travel across country to go to a top Wisconsin wrestling camp. Sure, a kid from New Jersey might want to try Chris Bono’s Florida wrestling camps. Or someone from Nebraska may be intrigued about wrestling camps in California. But you don’t have to spend big money and travel long distances to find a camp to learn from great coaches and teachers. For example, in Minnesota Clay Nagel and Matt Nagel put on the Concordia Cobbers’ wrestling camps every summer. These attract kids from throughout Minnesota, North Dakota, South Dakota and other regions. Concordia is a smaller DIII wrestling school, but Nagel has excelled as a coach at the high school and college level. He knows how to teach youth. His son, Matt, was a Division I All-American at Minnesota. Both have connections to former standouts from North Dakota State University, the University of Minnesota and Augsburg, for example, that will be at the  camp, not to mention, the wrestlers Clay coaches at Concordia. The camp will draw up-and-coming wrestlers from a wide area. Bottom line, sure this may not be a camp at a DI powerhouse where Tom and Terry Brands are putting you through intense workouts that will make you cry uncle, but there are good teachers in every state. You don’t have to go to the big national camp to find a great training opportunity. For parents on a budget, wrestlers who don’t want to travel far, explore the local wrestling camp to meet your goals.

Mistake #4 – Not getting out of your comfort zone

The goals of kids and parents attending summer wrestling camps vary greatly. Some just want more mat time. Some want to be with their friends. Heck, some just want to wrestle, no matter where and no matter with who. And while I recommend the smaller local camp, I firmly believe those who have the best success try a camp that gets them out of their comfort zone and trying something new. While I am a big advocate of the local camp, it might be best to reconsider going to a summer camp led by the same club coach you see every week, or the youth wrestling coach or high school wrestling coach you train or learn with every day. By all means don’t dismiss this if it’s the option that’s right for you, but if you choosing between options, why not try something new one year? Chances are, your coach may even encourage it!

Mistake #5 – Expecting the camp to make you a state champ

Every wrestler wants to be a state champion, a national champion, an Olympic champion. Goals are great. Everyone should set them. But spending a week at the best summer wrestling camp you ever went to isn’t going to make you the best wrestler in the country. However, by taking what you learn at wrestling camp and applying that to your everyday training – that’s what will set you apart and help you reach your goals. Learn, apply, try and repeat. Use it as a training tool, but not the only training tool.

As a parent you spend hundreds, if not thousands of dollars on your child’s wrestling camps and training over the course of their career. Want to avoid more mistakes like these? Want to save money and make the best decision for your budget and wrestler? Then order your copy of The Ultimate Guide to Wrestling Camps today – and train to be a champion tomorrow!