Individual or Team Camp: Which One is Best for You?

By Matt Krumrie Special to USA Wrestling | April 30, 2015, 12:59 p.m. (ET)

Individual or Team Camp: Which One is Best for You?

When it comes to wrestling camps, there are options—lots of them. As a result, parents often ask: Do I send my child to an individual camp that may be a better fit or my son or daughter’s needs, or would a team camp focused on benefitting a larger group be the best bet?

The answer depends on a number of factors, says Kevin Roberts, director of the Oregon State Wrestling Camps, held on the Oregon State University campus in Corvallis, Oregon. "Assess where the wrestler is skill-wise and commitment-wise, and what his or her goals are to help make the best choice when planning for the summer camp experience," he says.

If your wrestler is inexperienced or looking for specialized training that will aid in long-term development, an individual camp is probably best, says Joe Russell, head coach of the George Mason University wrestling team and Joe Russell Patriot Wrestling Camp in Centreville, Virginia.

At individual camps, wrestlers learn movements without the pressure of lots of competition, notes Russell. "I think we often have wrestlers competing before they have a good grasp of basic skills," he says. "I also like individual camps because wrestlers spend time training with wrestlers from other teams." He adds: "I think [youth wrestlers] can learn more from people outside their program.”

By contrast, Russell explains that wrestlers at a team camp usually spend most of their time with their teammates and don't interact much with wrestlers from other teams. For experienced or older wrestlers—such as those in high school—team camps can be great way to build that offseason team unity, says Russell. "You can work on competitive stress at camp," he adds.

The best team camps, also spend time focusing on technique, team building, and teaching life skills. However, Russell points out that team camps generally don’t provide as much technical instruction as individual technique camps. "If the kid needs to learn a great deal of technique and get skill repetition, I would suggest an individual technique or skills camp," he says.

The coach is usually the best judge of what kind of camp would best suit each wrestler, says Jim Harshaw, a coach with the Cavalier Wrestling Club in Charlottesville, Virginia. Growing up, Harshaw qualified for the Pennsylvania Cadet and Junior national teams, which allowed him to attend individual training camps associated with those teams. And because he was able to train with some of the best wrestlers in the state and country for a week, his progression was accelerated.

"None of my high school teammates were competing at the same level, so this was an opportunity for me to get the training I needed to help me get to where I wanted to go," Harshaw says."An individual camp can help that athlete striving to be the best get to the next level.”

Still, Harshaw notes that he missed the opportunity to bond with his teammates. "The team camp brings value because wrestlers spend time in the offseason together training,” Harshaw explains. “This can be invaluable during the season when times get tough and relationships can be strained."

Ultimately the decision on what kind of wrestling camp to attend comes down to timing, location, cost and team or individual need. Parents should sit down with their son or daughter and discuss the options, weighing benefits of each and pros and cons. It's also important to weigh the recommendations of your club or high school coach as well. In the end, if it seems too hard to choose, don’t. In some cases, youth wrestlers attend both a team and individual camp throughout the course of a summer, to help them improve both their individual and team goals.

10 tips to consider when picking a wrestling camp

From the book The Ultimate Guide to Wrestling Camps:

1. Weigh your options: If your son is wrestles in a higher weight, for example, make sure there are kids around his or her weight to drill with. Likewise, if your wrestler is smaller, check for the same. Call the camp to see how many other kids within that weight class are registered.

2. Find a friend: Attending a camp with a few good friends can help motivate youth wrestlers and build camaraderie.

3. Do your research: There are a number of specialized camps: technique camps, big-man camps, father-son camps, girl-only camps, team camps, intensive camps, day camps, overnight camps and more. Look around, read testimonials, talk to former attendees, or call the camp office to find out more information.

4. Cost: Wrestling camps don't have to be expensive. Don't get swayed by the big-name clinician or the promise of turning your wrestler into a state champion. Numerous local or regional camps can be inexpensive ways to get on the mat and get better.

5. Be ready for a challenge: If you want to get better, find a camp that will take you out of your normal routine or natural element. Sometimes a new environment, new partners, and new ideas can offer a fresh perspective and outlook on the sport.

6. Broaden your wrestling culture: A California wrestler looking to learn more about different styles may want to head to a camp in the state of Iowa. Similarly, East Coast wrestlers looking to compete with kids from the West Coast should attend a camp featuring coaches, campers, and clinicians from that region. There are different styles of wrestling in different regions of the country. A great way to learn about those styles is to attend a camp in those areas.

7. Recruiting opportunity: If you are serious about wrestling in college, attending a camp at a college where you might like to wrestle can be a good way to see what the team environment, staff, and coaches are like. Note: many college team members do double duty in the summer as college wrestling camp counselors. It's also an opportunity to get noticed by that school's coaches.

8. Prepare in advance: You don't have to be in state tournament shape to succeed at a camp, but don't expect to get the most out of a camp if you are out of shape or haven't been training.

9. Learn and apply: Spending one week at a wrestling camp won't improve a wrestler. But spending a week at that camp, taking what was learned, and applying it to your training regime or skill set will advance a wrestler toward his or her goals.

10. Make it fun: Whatever you do, remember wrestling camp should also be about having fun. So, don’t get risk your son or daughter getting burned out on the sport by picking the wrong camp (like sending a novice to an intensive team camp). By doing your research now, you’re getting a head start that will help your youth wrestler improve in the long run.