It's about this time every year when parents begin to look at summer youth sports camp options and ask: "What should I look for in a good sports camp?"
My focus here is going to be on the average athlete, who plays sports strictly for fun and recreation. The very serious athlete -- who probably plays the same sport year-round -- already has made summer camp plans.
The camp should be one that your child really wants to attend. Talk to the parents of your child's friends about their plans -- friends like to go to camp with friends.
There's no sense paying to send your child to an overnight camp if he is scared to sleep away from home or rarely has. That's a middle-of-the-night pickup waiting to happen.
You want your child to learn and improve in his or her sport, and the best way for that to happen is to have him or her participate with kids of similar ability. I stopped paying for my son to go to the local baseball camp with all his friends when it got to a point where it was strictly social for him, not a learning experience.
Don't get me wrong, the social part is important. But he can get that for free on the neighborhood playground. While there might be some lunch, rest, pool or social time at the camp, it should be less than 20 percent of the week.
Make sure the coaching staff is qualified and the camper-to-coach ratio is low. I always look for camps that are directed by high school or college coaches -- probably with their players as counselors -- with at least a 10-to-1 camper-to-coach ratio.
Look at the camp's daily schedule and make sure it's a mix of drills, activities and games. It's tough to improve your skills if all you are doing is scrimmaging the entire time.
Lastly, ask about the cancellation/absentee policy in case your camper gets injured or sick before or during camp. This is especially important for that first-time camper who might decide after day one he doesn't want to return.
Camp isn't for everyone, and is not a requirement to succeed in youth sports. But if you are going to invest the money to send your child, it pays to do some research to make sure you get the most out of it.
Jon Buzby's columns appear in newspapers and magazines around the country as well as numerous websites. Email your comments to firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him @YouthSportsBuzz on Twitter.