Camp is amazing. Your athletes are doing the right things, in the right way, just like you always asked. New skills are appearing left and right, friendships are blossoming, the team is in cheer nirvana! And then we all get back from camp, get focused on real life, and come back to practice to realize it feels like we lost 75% of camp already! This is a common and frustrating moment for a lot of coaches, so hopefully I can address some of those issues with this post.
Before Camp & While At Camp
It may be too late for you this season, but if not, definitely give this stuff a shot! Hammer home the point of being at camp, before and during the actual cheer camp: to grow as a team. If you grow during those four quick days during the summer, you should be able to keep the growth going all season. Make it known to the squad members that during camp they are going to bond with each other, learn new skills, and become a better cheerleader.
As you go through classes at camp, make a point to tell your team, “we will be working on X Skill or Y Skill after camp, make sure you pay attention to the staff teaching it and then actually try it during the open period.” Doing so will get your athletes focused on things far out of their current realm, like competition or games. Put the onus on your athletes to realize that they are expected to improve during AND after camp.
Right After Camp
We all want to enjoy our summer without cheer filling every waking moment, so I am fairly certain most coaches avoid practicing following cheer camp especially since Preparing for Camp was also a process. While this is mentally and physically helpful for both athletes and coaches, the break should be short! Give your team a few days off following camp, but then dive right back in! Those new skills aren’t going to get better by not doing them, in fact I know they will get worse or just disappear. Better hope a teammate remembers what the staff said the grip looks like! And if you can’t schedule a practice due to required time off or family travel, plan to have team open gyms!
Make these practices a little more laid back too if you think the added practices will have a negative result with the athletes (ie, they may feel like cheer makes them too busy), and keep it like a required open gym. Go over the new skills and techniques. Not every athlete heard 100% of what the staff had to say, some discussion will be needed as everyone recollects the camp memories. Now work those skills! Get some repetitions in, improve your numbers, make those camp skills your skills.
During The Season
Once we get back into the school year, it really gets tough to take the time to learn new skills or work on skills that aren’t perfect yet, so use your camp knowledge to improve on this. Utilize the new camp skills from the summer in your practices. Even if a couple of those skills are out of reach, you gotta keep trying! Bringing these skills up will also challenge your athletes in a new way since they are most likely focused on executing their current skills for games and competition.
Take the time to incorporate those new skills into your practice regimen year round. It may throw things off for a bit, or even frustrate some team members (including yourself), but it will be worth it! Your team will be working on new skills year round, not just the 4 days of camp. And once you see that growth happen on a long term scale, you will soon feel much better about spending your time and money at Cheer Camp each summer.