Summer camp has long been a rite of passage for families. Back in the ‘70s, children got shipped off to some bug-infested wilderness far from civilization, where they learned to fish, hunt and canoe—all skills useful for suburban dwellers. Camp worked on many levels—the kids were often happy to abandon the hot, stuffy cities to see if they could get away with assorted mischief, a la movies like Meatballs. Parents were happy to pack off their charges for a few weeks so they could reminisce about what life as a childfree adult was like.
But that was several decades ago. The modern-day camp experience is like going to Baskin-Robbins—there’s a flavor for everyone. Nowadays, there are camps for competitive sports, chess, computers, college prep, foreign languages, and even for budding secret agents.
Parents who want to get maximum return for their kids look at summer camps as just the place for their children to hone their skills for the next level of competition—college.
Monica Trainer, assistant volleyball coach at UC Riverside, oversees the 2007 Highlander Volleyball Camps. Trainer says many parents send their kids to sports camps to make them more competitive.
“A lot of (parents) want their kids to be occupied with something healthy during the summer, and some want it so their children can make it on the junior varsity or varsity team or get a scholarship,” she says.
The camps are held during the day, with sessions in the morning and afternoon, attracting up to 60 young women. Trainer says UCR also offers team camps, where coaches work with high school teams to improve their volleyball skills. The day camps are much easier to manage than camps where the students stay overnight. They’re also cheaper. The Highlander Camp costs $150 for four days. According to Trainer, an overnight camp would cost between $300-$400 for the same amount of time.
In her years teaching summer camp, Trainer has also seen her share of teenage hijinks. The only incident she can remember teaching day camp was when one girl tried to sneak out to be with her boyfriend. She said that discipline is more lax at the larger overnight camps, because there are more students and some of them are co-ed.
UCR also has sports camps featuring softball, baseball, soccer and tennis. To see a list, go to www.athletics.ucr.edu/administrative/camps.html.
Campers at Running Springs-based Pali Overnight Adventures must be the luckiest kids in the world. They get to choose from a variety of different-themed camps like Secret Agent Camp, Fashion Design Camp, Rockstar Camp and Hollywood Stunt Camp. Pali offers both day and overnight camps and serves children ages 7-16.
The focus here is on equestrian activities, sports, and visual and performing arts. During the morning, campers focus on their areas of specialty, and in the afternoon, they take part in traditional camp activities like kayaking, sports, academics and wilderness hikes.
According to General Manager Val Hardcastle, the Running Springs camp attracts up to 200 children per week during the summer. Those kids come from across the United States and different parts of the world. Hardcastle says this year he’s expecting campers from Taiwan, Korea, Italy and Spain, many who’ve found out about Pali through the Internet.
Hardcastle adds that some Japanese parents decide to make their vacation to America a family affair. The parents will often drop their children off at the camp while they visit more traditional tourists hotspots like Hollywood and Las Vegas.
Pali doesn’t have too many discipline problems with its campers. The camp likes to keep the children too busy to get into trouble, and the staff provides a structured environment. Hardcastle says that during the orientation process, parents are told of the expectations of their children, and if a camper breaks those rules, they’re subject to being booted out.
For more info on Pali Overnight Adventures, go to www.paliadventures.com.