Camp Basics

Volleyball Camps: Parents, here’s how to choose the best


By Chuck Rey

Assistant Coach at Winthrop University

    It’s nearly volleyball camp season, the time of year when parents will send their kids off on a two, three, four or five day journey to play volleyball for likely 12 hours a day. Kids believe that if they go to these volleyball camps, they will be able to make the high school varsity team, maybe even a starting position, which will eventually lead them to play for the college of their dream. For parents, some camps are as much as $1,500. What is the reality? What should be expected? What is the best camp for your child?

    There are a great number of excellent camps across the country. Your child should be excited about the opportunity to play volleyball on the same court as those collegiate athletes they admire. They will likely even have a chance to learn from their favorite players and hear the expectations of the coaches at the school they are visiting. Many camps offer overnight stays at the actual dorms of the players so you’ll get a real, college-like atmosphere. Volleyball camps are a great opportunity for your child to grow as a volleyball player and as an individual.

    To choose the best camp for your child, there are many factors to consider. The basics:

Child’s Age

    For younger children, I highly recommend your child accompany friends to a camp, especially their first camp. Often times, camps are as much a social gathering as it is a volleyball learning experience. If a group of parents want to send their children to camp and are unsure what camp, ask for recommendations from a local volleyball club director or high school coach. I also recommend a day camp, one that is local (if possible) in which your child will play during the day and return home at night. In larger cities, volleyball clubs and some high schools will host their own camps. This is a great introduction to camps. Most collegiate programs offer a large variety of camps, check online to learn if it is a day camp or overnight camp (or both).

Child’s Realistic Playing Ability

    At the higher age groups (14 – 18), playing ability and experience often override age as a determining factor for a camp. If your child is 14 and is attending camp for the first time, I would not recommend signing them up for the Advanced Camp – even if your child played on the varsity team as a freshman for their small high school in Rural City, USA. No offense, but your child may be a big fish in a small pond, especially if your child has never played club volleyball. Sending your child to the Advanced Camp might be overwhelming, intimidating, and scare them away from the game. The ultimate goal of camps is for your child to learn and to have fun. If you are not sure the level of your child, do not hesitate to contact the camp director. Be honest about your child’s experience and the camp director will find the best fit for your child.

Type of Volleyball Camp

Basic, Intermediate, Advanced, Skills, Setters Camp, Libero Camp, Outside Hitters Camp, Middle Hitters Camp, Team Camp, etc. For first time campers, the basic camp is best. For those players with club volleyball experience, more than one camp is often recommended. An Intermediate or Advanced Camp for intense training and playing is great for all around skills with a group of players that you are unfamiliar (advanced camps sometimes require informal invitations). The unfamiliarity will help you learn to adapt to new styles and create new ideas. A Skills Camp is recommended for specialization of a particular skill. As USA Volleyball CEO Doug Beal says, “Greater specialization always equals greater success.” The third camp is a Team Camp. This is usually a high school team that will train together for a number of days followed-up by a tournament at the last day or two of camp. Contact your local high school coach to learn how to get involved.

Location of the Volleyball Camp

    The best camp location is at the college(s) your child would one day like to play collegiate volleyball. As an incoming freshman to high school, it is seriously time to start considering colleges. At most Division I universities, especially the elite universities, scholarships have already been offered and accepted by high school juniors and seniors. College coaches are looking at high school sophomores and freshman to offer scholarships. No joke. One of the best ways to get the attention of these college coaches is to attend a camp of the college your child might want to attend.

Your child will likely have a few schools in mind. Attend camps at different colleges. Maybe an Intermediate Level Camp at a “stretch” or elite Division I school and an Individual Skills Camp at a “safety” school (a school your child can attend based academics and all-around fit for your child). Again, be realistic of your child’s playing ability.

Cost of the Camp

    USA Volleyball offers elite and A2 camps, Karch Kiraly offers a camp, Bill Neville (USA Gold Medal Coach) offers a camp, Gold Medal Squared offers a camp, Pat Powers (USA Player) offers a camp, the list goes on. Why do these great players and coaches run volleyball camps? Yes, for the love of the game, but also to make money. I know of a great wrestling coach that has a multi-million dollar a year camp empire. I cannot comment on the experience at these camps, but often times coaches from many different colleges work at these camps. I am willing to bet they are first class operations, but they can get expensive too. If you are considering one of these camps, do your homework. Check the camp’s website and contact the camp director to have the following questions answered:

Questions to Ask About Camps

    • Will the head coach, assistant coach, recruiting coordinator be attending the camp and if so, how long will they be in attendance? How involved will the coaches be with the camp? What is the realistic expectation of my child working with or being noticed by the coaches?

    • Will there be coaches from other colleges attending the camp, if so what colleges?

    • Who will actually be running the camp (a college coach, the players, or club coach perhaps)?

    • Will the players of the college be coaching at the camp? If so, how many of those players (sometimes players are home on summer break)? Ex-players?

    • What is the player/coach ratio of the camp?

    • How many courts and how many players per court? Will my child have an opportunity to play on the main court? Are all courts on the college campus?

    • How are groups of players determined? How often are groups changed? Are players rotated throughout groups?

    • How many hours a day will they play? Are there extra-curricular activities, such as swimming or time at the beach?

    • Is a trainer on-site for emergencies? What is the emergency policy? What happens if my child get sick? What is the refund policy of the camp?

    • Are meals provided or do they cost extra? What type of meals are provided?

    • If it is an overnight camp, where will my child stay? How many players per room? How are they chaperoned? Is it a coed camp? What other sports camps will be going on at the same time? How are these camps kept separate, especially at night? Are the dorms for a single sex or is it just the floors? What type of security is provided? What are the boundaries and limitations?

    • Be sure to bring linens, towels, and toiletries to an overnight camp too.

    • Some players fly into camps. How are those players chaperoned when they arrive at the airport?

    • What local hotels are recommended? Is there an official camp hotel? How are players chaperoned at the hotel?

    • Be sure to learn the camp schedule ahead of time, possibly before signing up for camp.

    • If possible, talk to previous campers of their positive and negative experiences. If you do not know of any, ask the camp director for a few phone numbers of past attendees. Those parents will likely offer a slew of great information.

Volleyball camps offer a great variety of benefits to your child. Beyond the physical intensity of the days, your child will get insight to elite programs, learn a number of techniques and strategies, and interact with volleyball experts and likely players they look up to. Be realistic about the camp. If your child plays volleyball a couple months a year, do not expect them to come out playing like a superstar or for that matter, offered a scholarship. The best part about camp is that it is a social opportunity to be with friends, to make lifelong memories, and most importantly to have fun.

Read more by Chuck Rey at

Camp checklist: what

to bring to volleyball camp

Volleyball Gear:

___ volleyball shoes/sneakers/tennis shoes (if you have a newer pair, bring an older pair as well to help prevent blisters!)

___ gym shorts (2 pairs)

___ t-shirts (at least 2/day)

___ socks

___ kneepads

___ water bottle (not required but handy)

___ small bag/backpack/duffle bag (to carry shoes, water bottles, keys between dorm and gym, not required but handy)

Dorm Needs:

___ sheets and blankets

___ pillows

___ pj’s and/or comfy clothes to wear after sessions

___ towels

___ alarm clock

___ phone charger

___ drinks and snacks for room

___ small amount of spending money for camp store, pizza, drinks  and snacks


___ shower needs (shampoo, soap, etc)

___ hairbrush and ponytail holders, barrettes, bobby pins, etc.

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Volleyball Camps: Choosing

the best summer camp for you


By John Kessel

USA Volleyball


    Nearly all players benefit from attending a summer volleyball camp. It’s a fun way to get a lot of touches and learn a great deal in a short amount of time. 

     But it’s important to remember that not all camps are created equal. Sure, it’s better to attend a so-so camp than to decompose all summer in front of the television. But if your goal is to be a much-improved player when your next high school or club season begins, you need to find the best camp available.

How do you distinguish between a great camp and a so-so camp? First of all, if you’re serious about taking your game to the highest level, you should look into trying out for USA Volleyball’s High Performance Program, which trains players with the same methodology and practice plans that are used by the USA Men’s and Women’s National Teams. All USA Volleyball Indoor High Performance summer programs are invitational only based on performance at spring tryouts and past year’s program participation. (For more information on this elite level of training, go to

Further, USA Volleyball Beach High Performance conducts beach camps for the junior players. For details on USAV Beach High Performance camps, visit

When choosing a camp outside the High Performance arena, you want “full-service.” In other words, a camp that fills your days with volleyball from morning to night. Total immersion is the best way to improve. It can be tiring. But it’s a good tired. Players bond at full-service camps in a way that creates a fun and productive learning environment and lots of special opportunities. Like eating dinner with an All-American. Or watching volleyball movies after practice.

To help you choose a summer camp that’s right for you (or your son or daughter), we have compiled a detailed list of things to consider when you’re making your decision. 

Experienced coaches 

Check the credentials of the head coaches. See how long they’ve been coaching, and ask for input from someone who has been to their camps in the past. And be sure there is a head coach. At some camps, the coaching is done by players who have never explained the game to themselves, much less to someone else. Find out if all the coaches have coached before.

Proper player grouping. It’s important that campers are given a skill test and put with players of similar abilities. That creates the best atmosphere for improvement.


Quality drills 

Make sure the camp you pick is heavy on game-like drills and light on the not-so-exciting stuff – like against-the-wall drills. The best way to learn the game is to play the game.

Ratio of campers to coaches. It should never be higher than 14:1, and ideally it’s 12:1. Less is more.

Court space 

Each group should have its own court. Camps that make you share a court are cheating you from learning the whole game.

Full-time athletic trainer. Injuries happen, so you want someone on site that’s qualified to deal with them.

Indoor courts 

Some indoor camps are held outdoors because that allows for more players, but it’s better to be indoors if your desire is to improve in the indoor game. Training inside a gym is hard enough. Adding wind, rain and sun makes the sessions less productive. Similarly, if you are intending to improve your outdoor game, by all means the camp training should take place in an outdoor environment such as sand or grass.

Key services

It’s best if meals and lodging are near the site, and chaperones should also be close by. You want to spend your time playing volleyball, not driving.

Swimming pool 

This isn’t a deal-breaker, but it’s nice to have a pool available so campers can work through muscle soreness and have fun when they’re not playing. 

Audiovisual training aids 

Again, not make or break, but it’s a nice bonus if campers can watch Olympic video and view other volleyball footage that will educate and inspire them.

Volleyball camp manual 

A lot of volleyball camps give away a T-shirt at the end of the session. That’s fine, but it doesn’t help your game. It’s better if you get a manual that reinforces some of the important things you learned during the camp.

Minimal conditioning 

You don’t attend a camp to run sprints or do push ups. You can do those on your own. A warm up is needed, and so are drills that will challenge you. But most of the camp should be skill learning.

John Kessel oversees grassroots development
and disabled volleyball at USA Volleyball.

Read his blog at: