Tony Azevedo, aka The Savior, is a 4-time Olympic water polo player, graduate of Stanford, and the current captain of the US National Men’s Water Polo Team. Tony Tuesdays is his conversation with the water polo community courtesy of HARDCOREPOLO.
Today I wanted to talk about something close to my heart– camps! Millions of kids (and their parents) all around the world spend tons of money every year at camps across all sporting disciplines. There are so many options to choose from that it can be very overwhelming and difficult to know which ones are really worth it. Today I’ll tell you a little bit about my background with camps and a few tips for choosing the best ones.
I grew up attending camps. I always went to the Azevedo Shooting School/Corso Goalkeeper Academy, along with the Winter Classic in Colorado Springs. Attending camps like these every year is something that I continue to attribute to my success. It’s not that I miraculously learned defensive skills or incredible moves, but what did happen is that I became a highly motivated student of the game. After a weekend filled with six intense hours daily of shooting, passing and other skill building, I could hardly wait to jump back in the water the next day to practice what I had observed and learned. Basically I fell in love with the game.
With young athletes, going through the same practices day in and day out can easily lead to complacency. What makes great players is an unending desire to compete. Camps bring together players who don’t normally train with each other, and this allows kids to assess competition outside of their normal circles and hopefully become inspired to improve even more. Camps also provide young athletes with the opportunity to speak with knowledgeable coaches and players about their experiences and ask for personal advice. Interacting and playing with Olympians is exciting!
And when it comes to camps, water polo players are actually at a great advantage. Try going online and seeing how much a camp with Lebron or Kobe costs. Or what about Tom Brady, Serena Williams, or other top athletes in their sports? In water polo, youngsters can attend weekend camps for $300 or less where they can directly interact, converse and train with the top players. I still remember attending camps run by Olympians when I was young. I got to ask them about the Olympics, college, stories about certain games, fights and more. One great memory is attending a USA vs. Russia game and having the US players remember me from a camp. It was so exciting and inspiring and really pushed me to love the sport and strive to be the best.
For me, the importance of a camp is clear. Sure, a young athlete will not become a great player after only two days of work, but he/she should leave the camp with more knowledge than when he/she arrived, and more important, he/she should leave with new idols to emulate and with increased motivation. A big disadvantage for water polo, especially in the US, is the lack of idols. All over the world water polo is shown live on TV, players are promoted as stars (Italy has a water polo player on their version of Dancing With The Stars!) but here in the US we don’t do a good job of promoting our top athletes and we also don’t have enough local games for kids to watch. If you don’t have someone to look up to and dream to be like, staying motivated can be difficult. This is why in my opinion camps are so important.
When I run a clinic, I try to make sure that every kid leaves with the belief that they can be whatever they want. I always get in the water to make sure that everyone can see me up close in action and get to play against me as well. I speak for half an hour about my background and my story, and then leave another half hour for the kids to ask me questions. I try and teach them about things that they can do out of the water to better their game, and of course in the water there is no doubt that they will be overwhelmed and motivated by everything they see!
When the camp is over, I always stick around until the last athlete or parent wants to talk or would like a signed ball or photo. I always keep in mind how the camps I attended as a youngster helped and motivated me, and my goal is to be this same inspiration for young water polo players today. And of course now it’s even easier with social media (@waterpolotony or tonyazevedo.com) for kids to message me personally about any question or concerns they might have.
In the end, while I am a huge proponent of camps, sadly there are always clinics out there that give the rest a bad name. Here are a few tips for choosing the right one:
-make sure the main instructor is on deck the whole time (otherwise how will your kids interact and get motivated?)
-make sure there is someone there with international exposure that can talk about his or her experiences from around the world
-make sure this person (or those running the camp) are athletes you want your kids looking up to
-make sure they have fun! Camps are not supposed to get kids in game shape– they are supposed to motivate and teach. An unhappy camper will not get either.
That’s it for today– stay tuned for next week!
Azevedo December Camp – See All Details In This Flyer
Follow Tony Azevedo on Twitter here.
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Stay tuned for more Tony Tuesdays coming soon!
Founded on the pool decks of Southern California by serious swimmers who know what it means to train at intense levels on a daily basis HARDCOREPOLO is here. HARDCOREPOLO is the first brand to truly examine and explore the ethos of the hardcore polo player. HARDCOREPOLO is an authentic and innovative designer, marketer and distributor of premium quality young mens and young womens swimsuits, training gear, clothing, accessories and related products under the HARDCOREPOLO name. Our true, authentic, athlete driven, innovative, iconoclastic, and creative style differentiates us from the bland competitive swim suit industry and gives us reason to be. Start to finish, design, cutting, sewing, everything we produce is made in our native Southern California, something we are very proud of.