Summer camps are a great way to develop, improve and perfect a young tennis players’ skills.
They go from playing every couple of days (or not at all), to making tennis their life for a week. That sort of immersion is just what many aspiring juniors need and the good news is, there are a number of fantastic options throughout the metro-Vancouver area for every level of junior tennis player looking to get out on the court this summer.
We’ll walk you through some of the best tennis camps for each level so that you can make a better decision as to which will be best for your kid. We also sat down with UBC tennis coach Alberto Sanchez so that he could share his thoughts on UBC’s summer program, and run you through why enrolling your kid in a tennis camp could be a great idea.
UBC Tennis Centre
UBC is a stalwart of the Vancouver community. We are proud of our globally renowned university, and the school always involves itself in extracurricular activities beyond graduate and post-grad studies — it’s no exception in tennis.
The UBC Tennis Center is a world class facility, with experienced, passionate coaches and a number of summer camps for all levels. We can’t say enough good things about UBC’s tennis program and our relationship with the facility, but we’ll let Alberto do the talking for us.
Let’s start with who is Alberto, and what is your role in the tennis community?
ALBERTO: So my name is Alberto, I come from Spain, I came here six and a half years ago and my role at UBC is officially “The Coordinator of Competitive Stream at the UBC Tennis Center”. Im also helping tennis BC with provincial tennis camps. At UBC what I do is coach the competitive clubs, the orange club, the green competitive, red competitive and the yellow ball teens and youths.
We use different balls for different ages (we usually follow the age because it is based off of the height of the kid, not the skill level). The goal behind these balls is to create the fundamentals for the kids so that when they grow to their normal height, if we’ve done everything correctly, they just need to get stronger because they have developed the proper fundamentals with the right balls.
If you’d like to learn more about the different ball-colour system, check out this article Alberto wrote a little while ago. The different colours represent different types of balls with the red ball being the most introductory, then the orange, then the green, and finally the normal yellow tennis ball.
How does UBC involve itself in the junior tennis community, especially during the summer?
ALBERTO: We offer three different summer camps: fundamental camps, competitive camps, and high performance camps, so we’re trying to help all the kids that we have in our community to develop their tennis. For the fundamentals, it’s the first step so it’s more of a “fun” week for them. They are going to learn a lot in one week (especially if they have never played) but we can’t expect them to be tennis pros. “Fun”damentals really is for fun. Competitive is for players and kids that like the sport and are starting to see tennis as a primary sport. We ask them to start competing in tennis and we really start to raise the skill level.
For high performance, it’s the same. It’s for a lot of the kids that we have all year round and we invite them to come do the camps during the summer. They come for a week, usually for three hours a day, and the development is huge because they are totally engrained in it.
When are the camps, how long are they for, and how long do they play a day?
ALBERTO: For the fundamental group, we have a full day program for orange, green and yellow dot (red-dot is usually for 3 hours). They go from 9 am to 4 pm Monday to Friday for a week. For competitive and high-performance we do 3 hours a day of high intensity training for one week.
Anyone can register for the fundamental groups. They start July 4th and end September 1st. Visit UBC’s tennis page for more details. To participate in the competitive or high-performance group, you must contact the UBC tennis centre and pass an assessment test. It’s important to get the right skill levels in the right groups so that the camps are as streamlined as possible.
Especially for the fundamental groups, how do you keep children interested in tennis over the course of a lesson?
ALBERTO: Good question. For fundamentals, the way I see it — because they haven’t chosen tennis as “their sport” yet — we need to emphasize the fun aspect on the court. Of course, we’re going to teach them how to hold the racket and basic fundamentals, but it needs to be in a game-like situation. We are working on this “gamification” at the centre right now which is the key for a kid in the fundamental group to start falling in love with tennis because they associate it with fun.
For kids more interested in developing their tennis, do you recommend private lessons as well? What are the benefits of a group lesson versus a private lesson and vice versa?
ALBERTO: If they can have both group and private it’s great, but the most important thing is time on court. It doesn’t have to be with a private coach or in a tournament, they just need to spend the time on court. Groups are great because there is a coach, there are plenty of reps and they also have fun in a good environment. A private lesson will be more detail oriented, but they always need some of that group setting. Also, remember that a coach can feed a ball well, but learning how to deal with the inconsistencies in tennis comes from playing imperfect tennis which is also accomplished in a group.
Obviously some kids will fall in love with tennis during a summer camp. How do they proceed into the fall?
ALBERTO: The process for camps is the same procedure for regular clubs throughout the year, if someone is playing really well, we’ll do an assessment with them and then move up to a higher level. Like I mentioned earlier, competitive and high performance groups are by invitation only so they need approval first. To boil it down: if the student likes tennis, talk with the coach, get an assessment and then they can join the more challenging group in the fall.
Alright, to finish it off, could you tell us one of your favourite stories about something that has happened at a summer camp?
ALBERTO: I have a good one. Tennis BC is involved with the YMCA and they run refugee programs. I had a couple of spots in the group and one of the refugees had a six year old kid who played tennis. I invited him to one of the sessions but he was too shy to play, so he kind of sat in the corner for most of the session. Eventually, one of the other kids started playing with him while I wasn’t looking and when I came back it melted my heart. I don’t know if I’ve gotten lucky, but I’ve seen this sort of connection between kids so much and it’s amazing.
That is an amazing story and I guess begs the question: even if it’s not tennis related, what can children take out of a tennis summer camp?
ALBERTO: They just have an amazing time meeting other kids. It happens every summer where we get the same kids over and over (they don’t come during the school year), but that means that something in these camps is fun for them. They have fun, they connect with their friends and join again next summer with the same people. They get back to the camp the next year and they already know each other, and you know they’ll have a blast by the end of the week!
The UBC Tennis Center is a great place for summer tennis, but it’s not the only one. Here is a list of some other great camps throughout the metro-Vancouver area.
The Tennis BC camps range from fundamental groups (like at UBC), to development groups, and competitive groups. You must register by age bracket and skill level.
Tennis BC Richmond Camp: https://clubspark.ca/TBCHubRichmond/Coaching/Camps
Tennis BC Stanley Park Camp: https://clubspark.ca/TBCHubStanleyPark
Surrey and Langley Tennis Centres
The Surrey and Langley Tennis Centres have camps starting July 3rd all the way through August 25th and also range in age and skill level.
Surrey Tennis Centre: https://www.thetenniscentre.ca/surrey/product-category/camps/summer-camps/
Langley Tennis Centre: https://www.thetenniscentre.ca/langley/product-category/camps/]
The North Vancouver Tennis Centre
The North Van Tennis Center also has three streams (recreational, competitive and tournament). Like with UBC, you’ll have to contact the centre to register for the competitive and tournament streams.
North Vancouver Tennis Centre: https://www.nvrc.ca/programs-memberships/program-directory/tennis/junior-tennis
You have to come prepared to these tennis camps. Tennis balls and fun are guaranteed, but your child will need court shoes and a junior racket to participate.
Fear not though; we know a place…
We’ve got some great aluminum junior rackets. Racket length is the most important determining factor, closely followed by aesthetics of course. If you can bring your child into the store to be sized up, that is ideal.
If your child is moving up to graphite, we’ve got 25 and 26 inch junior rackets which are also fantastic, but a bit more pricey. Remember, these are made for high-performance juniors.
And finally we’ve got our junior shoes. Once again, it’s best to come in and try them on, especially for new players, since tennis shoes can feel a bit weird at first.
Have a great summer and happy playing!
Hopefully we could help shine some light on the great camps throughout the city. Tennis is an amazing sport that helps build mental strength, athletic skills and most importantly, a community of friendships that could last for life!