Ramp Up Your Camp

By Jeffrey Stern

Planning and executing an officiating clinic isn’t the easiest of tasks. A lot of things can go wrong; things that no amount of preparation can prevent. Still, there is a lot that can go right. Here are some ways you can keep Mr. Murphy and his law as far away as possible.

1. Pick the right leader.

It takes an individual with special skills to be out front of a clinic. He or she must be organized, respected, creative and able to delegate. Having the time to put all the pieces together is another consideration. Someone who is already involved in other committees is likely not the best candidate.

The association must be willing to give the clinic coordinator the necessary tools — be that money, manpower or encouragement. Certainly there must be oversight; the coordinator should not be given carte blanche to spend funds. But he or she can’t be hamstrung by an overly conservative budget.

2. Choose the type of clinic.

Generally speaking, there are two types of clinics: classroom or onfield/oncourt. Many camps offer a little of both. Which way you choose to go will be dependent on outside agencies.

For instance, if you want the campers to experience game action, you will have to coordinate efforts with someone running a camp for players. Those types of camps often need officials to work the live scrimmages and will likely be amenable to having your campers mix in with theirs.

The most successful live-action camps include review of the attendees’ performance. That can be accomplished by having a clinician “shadow” the trainee on the field or court, offering suggestions during breaks in the action, or recording the action.

For an all-classroom camp, you can use any combination of video, PowerPoint, guest speakers and handouts.

Consider also whether or not you want the clinic to be a money-maker. If so, set the fee accordingly. But remember that price will be a consideration when officials are deciding if they will attend.

3. Choose the clinicians carefully.

Star power in the form of a pro or major college official is a great drawing card. But their presence could be a detriment. If he or she tries to teach advanced techniques to novice officials or espouses mechanics and philosophies not applicable to what is mandated, the campers will be lost. You don’t want a camper employing unapproved mechanics because “that’s how the speaker at camp said it’s done.”

Many of those higher-level officials have great stories to tell. But colorful tales of big games past do not always provide real-world advice the campers can use. Be sure you are clear when you invite a guest speaker as to what your expectations are.

4. Get necessary approvals.

Many state associations or other governing bodies reward camp attendance in the form of playoff qualification or advancement. If the governing body has paperwork that you need to fill out to certify a camper’s attendance, be sure you get it and return it as soon as possible after the event.

In some cases, the governing body requires what material is covered during an event. If so, send a copy of your agenda.

5. Protect yourself.

Even if you don’t plan on setting foot outside a classroom, spend the few dollars it takes to insure yourself and your association. If an official were to be injured participating in a drill, liability would be a concern. Don’t assume you are covered.

6. Choose the right date.

Out of tradition and necessity, most camps are conducted on weekends — usually Saturdays. Find a day when potential attendees are most likely to be available. So, don’t choose a holiday weekend or a weekend when a community event such as a festival will compete for attention.

If your camp will be spread over multiple days, be sure local hotels have rooms available and reserve a room block.

7. Choose the right location.

A site as centrally located to your potential audience as possible is the best way to go. Make sure it is big enough to accommodate the numbers you expect and has the proper facilities or equipment.

8. Get the word out.

Use email lists and local media to announce your event. If you aren’t restricting your camp, let other associations know about it. And tell area schools about the camp. Your camp may prove to be your group’s most successful recruitment tool.

Jeffrey Stern is Referee’s senior editor.