Frequently Asked Questions

Tennis & Life Camps

Camp Selection

Q: What is the difference between the tournament camp and a junior camp?
A: The tournament camp is restricted to players at a 4.0 playing level or above. They need to have competed in summer USTA tournaments or other competitive events that included ranked players. The tournament camp is similar in structure and content to a junior camp with one important difference. Tournament players are required to play a full singles match one day and a full doubles match the other day at 4:15 p.m. On the other hand, junior camp players have three options at 4:15 p.m. They may go to station drills where they receive individual instruction on a stroke of their choice; or they may be in a round robin tournament with prizes where they play at least four games against several other doubles teams or singles players; or they may go swimming, relax in the dorm, or play other games.
Q: Do advanced players also attend regular junior camps?
A: Yes. Every junior camp has approximately 100 players ranging in playing ability from 1.5 to 5.0. Campers are separated according to age and ability, so the most skilled players are always placed together in drill groups. The instruction is adjusted to the level and needs of the student. Station drills that are offered three times each day give all students the opportunity to work on skills related to their individual needs. Good players at junior camps can perfect their topspin and slice serves, learn to hit underspin drives with both their forehands and backhands, or master the drop shot and the one-handed, backhand, angle volley.
Q: How does the family camp work? Do children and adults receive lessons together?
A: Families are normally placed in the same half of the camp so that all family members can share the same lecture sessions and be separated into different drill groups according to age and ability. However, family members can choose to be in the same drill group. More often parents and children will choose to play together in an afternoon round robin tournament, attend station drills, eat meals, or go swimming together. Family camp offers a wonderful opportunity for extended families (grandparents, parents, children, cousins, etc.) to spend quality time together as they develop tennis and life skills that will enrich their lives after they return home. Non-tennis players are welcome for a $190 charge. They make take advantage of the station drills, sit in on the classroom sessions, use the swimming pool, and eat with their family. Also, a non-tennis player can take care of a youngster less than eight years who is too young to participate in the camp. Often young players are introduced to camp in their early years through a family camp and then return to junior camps as they grow older. However, family camps always contain youths of all ages who enjoy coming with their families.
Q: May non tennis playing parents accompany young children to family camp to give them moral support?
A: Adults may accompany children to either camp and not participate in the tennis. The total cost for a room, food in the dining service, the opportunity to observe all tennis instruction, and use of campus facilities including the library and swimming pool is $190. In family camps the adult rooms with the child in the evening while in junior camps the adult stays in a separate dorm section. Adults may adjust their presence at camp according to the wishes of the child.
Q: Can a youth attend an adult camp?
A: Yes, a 16-year-old youth may attend an adult camp accompanied by an adult.
Q: Can a high school graduate attend a junior or tournament camp?
A: Yes, it is common for high school seniors to attend camp after high school graduation and before they attend college. It can be an excellent way to experience TLC with high school friends or prepare for a college team tryout.
Q: Can anyone attend two camps in the same summer?
A: Yes. The best strategy is to attend a camp early in the summer. Then spend some time working on the skills and strategies that were learned. Late in the summer come back for a refresher and a chance to add some new knowledge.

Tennis Playing Groups

Q: May I select the other people who will be in my drill group?
A: Yes. Indicate the other people you would like to be with when you register. Either three or four other players of similar ability drill together. When everyone selects each other we guarantee that you will be placed together. Also, when groups of eight or more request to be together on court we place you on adjoining courts.
Q: If I am not satisfied with the group in which I have been placed will I have an opportunity to switch groups?
A: Yes. This can be initiated by your request or our judgment. Our supervisors move from one drill group to the next, observing skill levels and player compatibility. We will make switches until satisfaction is achieved.

Instructional Approach

Q: Why does the TLC approach use so much praise? Why be positive after a loss or a missed shot?
A: TLC recognizes that honest praise enhances performance, motivates students to work harder, and makes tennis more fun. If they perform tasks correctly on one out of several attempts, we highlight the successes and ignore the mistakes. This enhances learning. If there are no successful performances on which to build, skilled TLC teachers break the tasks down or decrease the degree of difficulty. We simplify until success can be achieved and praise can be honestly given.

However, some students are not satisfied unless they win or hit a perfect shot. If a shot ends up in the net and they lose the point, they see no reason for praise. The skilled instructor may have observed an effective ‘brushing up” on the ball that produced more topspin than ever before, causing the ball to dip into the net. In other situations the instructor may have seen more effort, earlier preparation, or better balance than ever before, and acknowledge it as a positive building block. Each accomplishment is worthy of praise, even if the shot was missed.
Q: How much individual attention will each camper be given?
A: TLC prioritizes individual attention. It begins when every staff member learns the names of every camper. In junior and tournament camps it continues in the dormitory section as the counselor learns things about each camper. At mealtime counselors sit at each table with the campers and encourage conversation. On the court four or five campers drill together for the entire camp and get to know each other well. Supervisors roam from court to court assisting with instruction and seeing that the students are adjusting well. Individual instruction is offered three times a day at station drills. Individual videotaping and analysis is provided for each camper. Also each camper receives a written note that evaluates progress and accomplishments in the camp.
Q: With campers exposed to so many instructors how does TLC maintain a unified teaching approach?
A: TLC divides the campers into drill groups according to ability. For example all campers receive instruction on the serve, but all drill groups have instruction that is adjusted to the level and needs of the individual camper. Some spend their time developing the mechanics of a simplified serving motion while others are working on slice and kick serves to various locations in the service boxes.
At station drills that are offered three times a day the same degree of specialization is provided. For example on forehands beginning campers can work on a simple low to high swing with the wrist laid back while advanced campers may be working on a dipping forehand passing shot with a semi-western grip or a drop shot with accentuated underspin produced with a “tea cup” swing and a continental grip.
Q: With such a wide range of playing abilities how does TLC create a teaching and learning environment that challenges everyone?
A: TLC divides the campers into drill groups according to ability. For example all campers receive instruction on the serve, but all drill groups have instruction that is adjusted to the level and needs of the individual camper. Some spend their time developing the mechanics of a simplified serving motion while others are working on slice and kick serves to various locations in the service boxes.
At station drills that are offered three times a day the same degree of specialization is provided. For example on forehands beginning campers can work on a simple low to high swing with the wrist laid back while advanced campers may be working on a dipping forehand passing shot with a semi-western grip or a drop shot with accentuated underspin produced with a “tea cup” swing and a continental grip.
Q: Does TLC compliment the instruction of your local pro or coach?
A: Yes. The ideal situation for every camper is to have a local coach or pro that reinforces what he/she learned at camp. There are many correct ways to strike a ball and the TLC staff does not try to fit everyone into a standardized mold. All students can improve footwork, early preparation, stillness of the head, tracking the ball, balance, and a variety of skills that will improve any stroke that a pro back home may have been developing.
Q: What are the teaching and coaching credentials of the TLC staff?
A: The creator of the TLC approach is Steve Wilkinson, who recently received the 2009 education award from the International Tennis Hall of Fame. Also he was inducted into the Intercollegiate Tennis Hall of Fame in 2010.
Staff members are tennis pros with USPTA certification, college and high school coaches, and highly ranked collegiate players with teaching experience. Also, Neal Hagberg, nationally recognized singer/songwriter who has contracts with Columbia Artists and Red House Records, leads TLC. Twice he received the prestigious McKnight Foundation grant.
Another leader is Dr. Dan McLaughlin from Wingate University, recognized leader in teaching pedagogy, tennis instruction, and sports psychology. The Gustavus leader of TLC is Tommy Valentini, the men’s head coach of the highly successful tennis program. He is a PhD candidate in sport ethics at the U. of Minnesota.
Q: Will I get to hit a lot of tennis balls?
A: Yes, yes, yes. With a 4:1 student to teacher ratio for on court drills and teachers that and 1:1 attention at station drills three times a day, a camper will be able to hit as many tennis balls as she/he can imagine.
Q: Will I get to see top-level tennis demonstrated?
A: Yes, during singles and doubles strategy sessions for all camps, and early morning exhibition matches during adult camps.
Q: Do I need to be in excellent physical shape to enjoy camp?
A: No. The intensity of drills is adjusted to your conditioning level. Our trainer can help with ice, tape, bandages or whatever you need. Adults can take advantage of Annette Reynolds, our experienced masseuse who is adept at getting campers back on the court again. For adults all classes and drill sessions are optional. For youth in junior or family camps the noon hour or the time after 4:15 p.m. provide opportunity for station drills, rest, swimming, or relaxing activities.

Off Court Activities

Q: What activities besides tennis are offered?
A: Campers have choices that begin at 4:15 p.m. The swimming pool, spa, and sauna are appealing to some. Others like table tennis, foosball, television, card games, piano playing, reading, and other relaxing dormitory activities- even naps! Adult campers enjoy the Neal and Leandra folk music concerts on the final evening of camp. Junior and tournament campers like the dance on the second evening and the variety show on the third evening that includes both staff and campers. All campers at every camp enjoy the skits, camp songs, and sing along times.
Q: What are morning reflections?
A: We gather at the beginning of the day for a non-sectarian reflection that includes a personal story and a song. Campers consider how we can better live in the world with each other, both on and off the court. All religious traditions are represented at TLC, including Muslims, Hindus, Buddhists, Jews, and Christians. Reflections are a place where we explore what connects us, not what sets us apart.
Q: How does TLC use music, acting, and humor to both teach and have fun?
A: Camp song parodies written by Neal Hagberg and taught to the whole camp, not only stress humor, but – believe it or not – proper tennis technique and strategies. Daily on-court Saturday Night Live type skits by staff members stress sportsmanship through hilarious reverse psychology. Participation in the variety shows by staff and campers showcase the off court talents of many campers and staff members.
Q: Is food served after the evening meal?
A: Each evening after the first night of camp pizza or sub sandwiches for evening delivery can be ordered before 8 p.m.
Q: May I bring food to camp?
A: Campers may keep food refrigerated in the camp pro shop refrigerator. Non-perishable food may be kept in the dormitory room.
Q: Does TLC permit junior campers to bring extra food and drink?
A: Yes, but please limit the food to nonperishable items that do not require refrigeration. Youth may wish to have energy foods to place in their racket bags, although TLC does provide apples or oranges every morning and afternoon. Also, they may bring energy drinks, but TLC provides water bottles and ice water on every court and in each classroom. Vending machines with non-nutritional options are located in both the dorms and the Swanson Center.
Youth often like evening snacks, even though the Gustavus Dining Service is ranked #8 in the nation and offers a huge number of delicious and nutritional meal alternatives. Also campers may order pizzas or subs if they place their order before 8 p.m. in the pro shop. The food is picked up in the pro shop at 9:30 p.m. after the evening program.

Proshop

Q: May Junior Campers charge? Are credit cards accepted?
A: Yes, they may charge for pro shop items, and then pay at the end of camp. Credit cards are accepted.
Q: What can I buy in the TLC pro shop?
A: Rackets, racket re-stringing, t-shirts, sweatshirts, shorts, hats, wrist & headbands, shoes, instructional manuals, CDs, novelty gifts, etc.
Q: Can I get my tennis racket restrung at camp?
A: Yes, racket stringing is available every night, with rackets available the next morning, starting at $20.

Medical and Health Accommodations

Q: Does the camp accommodate people with medical challenges?
A: Yes. Many players with diabetes, asthma, and bee sting allergies attend camp. We can store medicines in our refrigerator and can assist youngsters who need help.
Q: Does the camp accommodate people with dietary restrictions?
A: Yes. Many players with severe food allergies come to camp. Gluten free or other special diets are easy to achieve. The Gustavus dining service, ranked #8 in the nation among collegiate dining services, offers a wide range of food choices with specific labels. Specific food concerns can be communicated to Margi Willmert in the dining service. Her email is mwillmer@gustavus.edu or her phone is 507-933-6245.

First Aid

Q: If a player is injured during camp or shortly before camp begins, will he/she benefit from the camp experience?
A: Yes, depending on the nature of the injury and the attitude of the camper. The camper who can walk but not run can still participate in instructor fed drills where the feeds are adjusted to the movement capabilities of the student. Station drills are offered three times each day. They focus on stroke mechanics and do not require movement. Also the strategy, sportsmanship, and mental training sessions require no movement from the campers. The same is true for the meals, evening programs, and other times when counselors and campers mix. So much can be gained when schedules, camp availability, and personal conflicts do not permit a good camp alternative.? Even a hand or arm injury need not preclude camp if good alternative camps are not available. Sometimes campers have opted to play with their opposite hand in a lower ability group.
Q: Are ice and first aid supplies for injuries provided? Does the camp have trainers?
A: Both ice and first aid supplies are available at the Swanson Tennis Center and the camp dormitory. TLC and Gustavus have professional athletic trainers. All TLC staff receive yearly first aid and CPR training and certification.
Q: In case of a serious injury are emergency medical facilities immediately available?
A: The St. Peter Hospital emergency room is only a mile from campus. Campus police and emergency vehicles are available 24 hours per day.

Room Accommodations

Q: Describe the dormitory accommodations. Are the rooms air-conditioned?
A: All dormitory rooms are built to accommodate two twin beds. We do add third beds by special request for junior campers, but we do not recommend that arrangement. Twelve rooms in each dormitory section surround air-conditioned lounges. On hot days we advise campers to keep their windows closed and their doors opened. Campers should bring fans to pull the cold air into the rooms. Each dorm section contains rest rooms and showers. Private rooms are available for adult campers and for juniors with special needs. We recommend roommates for all junior campers. When they come alone we pair them with another child of the same age who has also come alone. ?The dorm sections have separate toilet and shower facilities for men and women, thereby accommodating couples in adult camps and families who want to be in adjoining rooms.
Q: Does TLC permit single rooms or three person rooms for junior camps?
A: Yes. Single rooms for youth can be best if they have certain medical conditions or relational issues.
When three youth want to be together, but do not want to be crowded into one room, one of the three can be given a private room next to the other two. We strongly discourage three youths rooming together, but they can do so if all three agree and their parents support the arrangement. We move a third bed into a room designed for two. Very little time is spent in the dormitory room, except for sleeping, so the arrangement works for youth who want to stay together, provided they are quiet after curfew.
Q: May people choose to stay at home or in a motel while they attend camp?
A: In junior and tournament camps everyone must stay in the dormitory. The evening interaction with a dorm counselor and other youngsters is a very important part of the camp experience.
In adult and family camps anyone may choose to stay at home or in a motel. There is a $30 per person refund for people making this choice. Commuting is strongly discouraged. Evening programs in adult camps end as late as 11 p.m. and start as early as 6:50 a.m. People wishing to take advantage of all programs do not have time to commute.
Q: If we bring our child from a long distance can we stay on campus while our child is at camp?
A: Yes. You may have a room in a separate dormitory section for a charge of $30 per person per night. Other good options are motel or hotel accommodations in St. Peter, Mankato, or Minneapolis/St. Paul.
Q: Will I have Internet access at camp?
A: Yes. Wi-Fi is available in the dorms. You may click in as a Gustavus guest for no charge. Also, computers with free Internet access are available in the student union just below the Dining Service.

What to Bring

Q: What do I need to bring to camp?
A: Please see the full packing list for a complete details.
A medium to large size fan. It pulls cool air from the air-conditioned lounge into your room and keeps you cool at night.? ?Tennis shoes. Please do not wear cross trainers or running shoes on our newly resurfaced courts. They leave black marks. A cross trainer or running shoe has a black rubber tip on the front of the shoe. If you do not have official, non-marking tennis shoes you will be required to purchase them in the pro shop. Cross trainers and running shoes are not designed for tennis movements and they increase the risk of ankle injuries. ?Tennis racket. We strongly recommend a good competition racket with the right grip size instead of an inexpensive recreational model or a heavy, hand-me-down racket with a grip that is too large. The right racket can make a big difference in the level of play. Our instructors can give you good advice. Our supply of Wilson demo rackets makes it possible for you to try out a racket before you buy it. TLC prices are lower than anywhere else.
If your racket needs restringing, that is not a problem. Our expert stringers can receive your racket by 8 p.m. and have it ready for you early the next morning.
Rain poncho or umbrella for walking between the indoor tennis facility and the cafeteria and dorms.
Q: Are youth permitted to have cell phones?
A: Yes, but they must be kept turned off during all instruction and activity periods. Parents should realize that emergency calls home often relate problems that are worked out and forgotten a few hours later.
Q: How much money should a youth bring?
A: Plan on $8 for the first evening meal. If a racket string should break restringing costs at least $20. Tennis shoes cost around $100, rackets $89-200, sweatshirts $40, and t-shirts $10. Pizzas and subs for evening snacks $7.50.

First Day of Camp

Q: What time is camp check-in?
A: Camp check-in begins at 2 p.m. on Mondays and 3 p.m. on Thursdays. TLC instructors meet campers at their cars and carry their bags to their rooms. Every camper receives a free camp water bottle and t-shirt and a room key prior to the first court sessions. Instruction begins at 5 p.m. on Monday and 5:45 p.m. on Thursday.
Q: Can we check-in to our rooms early?
A: Early check in is not available due to housekeeping scheduling.
Q: If I am late to camp where should I go?
A: If you know in advance that you will be late, please call the TLC office at 507-933-8805. If you discover after 1:30 p.m. on check-in day that you will be late, then call our pro shop number at 507-933-8806. We will make special arrangements to accommodate your arrival time.
If you have not made special arrangements and you arrive between 5 and 7:45 p.m. on Monday or 5:45 and 8:15 p.m. on Thursday, go directly to the Swanson Indoor Tennis Center. This is an air structure in the northwest corner of campus. Change into your tennis clothes and leave your luggage in the lobby. Report to the supervisor in charge. They will explain what you have missed, direct you to the proper court, and introduce you to your instructor and the students in your group. Later a supervisor will help take your luggage to the dormitory, give you your dorm key, and see that you receive all your registration materials.
Sometimes campers must arrive on the morning of the second day. If so, please call the TLC office in advance to make special arrangements.
Q: Is an evening meal provided on check-in day?
A: NO FIRST EVENING MEAL IS PROVIDED. Instead campers may bring their own food, eat at a local restaurant, or pay for a meal at the college dining service. Refreshments are provided around 8 p.m.
Q: Does TLC permit youth with driver’s licenses to drive themselves to camp?
A: Yes. TLC wants to be informed in advance of any youth who are driving and who will be coming with them. We require youth to leave their car keys at the pro shop shortly after they arrive. They may not drive at any time while camp is in session.
Q: Is there convenient access by plane and shuttle to TLC?
A: Yes. Fly to Minneapolis/St. Paul. Upon arrival follow signs from baggage claim to Ground Transport/Vans. There take Land to Air Express shuttle service to St. Peter. Driving time is 75 minutes. Daily departures are at 9:30, 12, 2, 4, 6 and 9. Thursday pick up at Gustavus is at 1:15 (you will miss the final program), 3:15 and 5:15. Sunday pick up is 1:15 (you will miss the final program) and 5:15. For reservations and pricing call 507-625-3977. The driver will stop on the Gustavus campus when requested. Or for a personalized pickup by minivan cab upon arrival call Taxi Pros at 507-344-8294. The driving time is 15-20 minutes. Please call for pricing.

Last Day of Camp

Q: When should parents pick up their child on the last day of camp?
A: The final awards program in the Student Union begins at 12:30 and ends at 1:45 p.m. Parents, please attend this excellent camp summary. Camp pictures, achievement award sheets, video analysis cards, and graduation certificates are given to each camper. Many qualify for gift certificates from the pro shop. The entire staff is present and several share personal experiences involving them and the campers.
We recommend that parents come to the Swanson Center in the morning to watch their child play tennis between 8:10 and 11:50 a.m. Next join them in the Student Union at 11:50 a.m. for lunch. The food is excellent. The Dining Service is ranked #8 in the nation for all colleges and universities.
We request that all campers attend the final awards program. When early departures are absolutely necessary, TLC wants to be informed on registration day. Special arrangements will be made for distributing the camp pictures, graduation certificates, and other materials.
Q: If my child has an important game/event during camp will TLC permit the youth to be gone from camp for a period of time?
A: Yes. Inform TLC before camp begins of the conflict. Indicate who will pick up and return your child and what the hours will be.
Q: If I must leave early from camp what should I do?
A: Please inform the TLC office at check-in time. Special arrangements will need to be made for camp graduation materials, camp picture, and room key. We strongly recommend that you attend the final awards program, so please plan to attend whenever possible.

Junior Campers

Q: Will my child be closely supervised and protected?
A: Yes. Our programmed schedule of activities begins at 6:45 a.m. and continues until bedtime at 10 p.m. Teachers are with them continuously. Even at mealtime an instructor sits with the campers at each table. The front doors to the dormitory are kept locked or supervised. Each child is given a key to his/her individual room. Twelve rooms are grouped around a central lounge. Each section has an instructor/dorm counselor who looks after the youth and sees that lights are out and curfews are enforced. Boy and girls’ rooms are separated by floor and kept monitored. No one may leave the dormitory in the evening. Furthermore, Tennis and Life Camps is located in a safe, small college community with 24-hour presence by Gustavus campus security.
Q: This is my child’s first time away from home. What if he/she becomes homesick?
A: If any child becomes homesick during a junior camp and wants to come home, we recommend an alternative plan. A parent can join the child at camp and stay in a separate dormitory room until the homesick crisis passes. The cost per evening per person for a dormitory room only is $20.
Q: Can a youth attend two consecutive camps that begin on Monday and end on Sunday?
A: Yes. However, realize that the camper will repeat the same instructional program. Drill sessions and station drills are always adjusted to what each camper needs, so the immediate repetition can prove valuable. Many youth leave camp wishing the camp were longer, so this could be a good solution. No Sunday night stays are possible. Our staff is off duty from Sunday to Monday afternoons.
Q: Do many children come to TLC alone? What does TLC do to make children feel included?
A: Yes, one third of them do. Some children prefer to come alone, thereby increasing their opportunity to create new friendships with youth from other communities. A child coming alone is paired in a dorm room with another child of similar age who has come alone. Sometimes these matches lead to lifetime friendships.
TLC prioritizes openness and inclusiveness. All the instructors know the first names of every camper after a day. The first dorm section meeting on the first evening of camp requires all campers to share things about themselves and to learn each other’s names. Camp instructors always sit with the campers at mealtime. The staff looks for campers who may be sitting alone and goes to them. The same is true at the camp dance. Also, on the court the staff looks for campers who may seem shy or not included. The positive, reinforcing approach to instruction helps instill personal confidence in all TLC campers.
Q: Do we welcome calls from parents when youth encounter problems at camp?
A: Yes! Please call our camp office at 507-933-8805. We appreciate confidential calls when parents hear about a problem that could use staff intervention. We give extra attention to the children who need it. Loneliness, homesickness, upset stomach, roommate incompatibility, etc., are all problems that we want to address as soon as possible. An alert from a parent helps us achieve our goal of sending every camper home with a very positive camp experience.
Q: If my child has a birthday at camp, what special celebration arrangements can be made?
A: Every person with a birthday at camp is recognized with “happy birthday” greetings in the dorm and on our large electronic message boards at the Swanson Tennis Center. He or she will have “happy birthday” sung to them by the entire camp. Also some families choose to purchase a birthday cake from the Dining Service. You may contact Margi Willmert at 507-933-7608 and place an order. Let the TLC staff know and we will pick it up. Usually it is shared at 9:30 p.m. with about 20 youth who live in the same dormitory section.

Youth Awards

Q: What awards and financial aid are available?
A: For half scholarships based on merit alone apply for a Gibbs or a Gibbs Courage Scholarship. For half to full scholarships based on merit and financial need apply for a Butorac scholarship. Because of NCAA rules awards are limited to youth who are in the 8th grade or younger.
Q: What can I do to help needy youth attend Tennis and Life Camps?
A: Letters that recommend worthy individuals and describe the financial need are extremely helpful. Tennis and Life Camps prefers to cooperate with local communities. Scholarships have the greatest impact when a TLC summer camp is combined with opportunities in the local community. Often a coach or teacher can approach service clubs for partial support while TLC provides the rest.