How to Choose the Right Tennis Camp
But unlike tennis balls, which can't be all that different, tennis camps vary in everything from their on-court demands to their off-court amenities.
For the best possible experience, you want a camp that matches your individual needs and desires or those of your kids.
To make choosing well easier, here's a set of guidelines—one for adult camps, a second for juniors—based on Tennis Resorts Online's 2008 ranking of the Top 25 Tennis Camps and profiles of Junior Camps.
Every brand has its own distinctive style, but some will suit you better than others. Picking the right camp can make all the difference between a great holiday and a disappointing one.
Here are some things to keep in mind as you try to decide where to go:
Poll Friends Ask players on your team or those at your club to recommend camps they've attended.
Intensity Camps typically run anywhere from 2 hours a day to as much as 6, but hours on court is only one measure of intensity. Some camps, like Saddlebrook (Hopman) and the Nick Bollettieri Tennis Academy, both in Florida, pursue a hard-core strategy that not only has you on-court a grueling five hours a day but also fills those hours with demanding drills designed to push your level of endurance. If you've never been to camp or are worried about your physical conditioning, book a weekend program or one whose sessions last only 2 to 3 hours rather than all day. Also, choose one whose climate does not pose its own difficulties. If you get through that comfortably, then you'll know better what you want to take on in the future.
Venue What do you need besides tennis in the way of other recreation and creature comforts? Camps at resorts obviously offer a wide range of other activities, which can be especially important if you're going with someone who's not interested in tennis. Dedicated camps and college campus programs, on the other hand, frequently include meals, and that group dining adds to the social atmosphere and makes such camps ideal choices if you're traveling alone or are looking for easy camaraderie.
Participants The size of the camp, as measured by the total number of participants, affects the experience in several ways. Small camps tend to afford more personal attention but may not have other players at your level, particularly if you're a beginner or advanced player. Large camps mean you're more likely to be grouped with others at your level. Among the questions I recommend asking are how many people have signed up for the exact dates you plan to attend. If you're an NTRP 4.5 or above, ask, too, how many players they expect at your level.
Summer and holiday junior camps—as opposed to tennis training academies like the Weil Tennis Academy in Ojai, California—all seem to promise much the same thing: an opportunity for your 9 to 18 year old to focus on tennis, get away on his or her own and have fun.
Here's a checklist of criteria to help you make a better-informed choice for your son or daughter: