A Little Legwork Now Will Make Happy Campers This Summer

THINKING ABOUT A SUMMER HOCKEY CAMP for your young athlete? Take my advice, look at everything the camp entails, from drills to ice time to how coaches interact with kids. We didn't, and we learned the hard way.

We signed our daughter up for what we thought was the perfect camp experience, challenging yet fun. We found out she was spending most of her time outside, flipping tractor tires, running up and down steep hills. And when she did finally get on the ice, it was only for rigorous drills. That's fine if you signed up for The Herb Brooks Experience for Dummies, but the brochure we read through emphasized a fun experience. This was just making our young skater frustrated, bitter and sore. 

Long story short, we should have spent more time doing our homework on the camp.

"The first step for any parent is to research the camp staff," says USA Hockey's Youth Ice Hockey Director Kenny Rausch. "Does everyone on staff have coaching certification? Background checks? Are the facilities in good shape? The next set of questions I would ask is [about] the on-ice and off-ice structure of the camp."

Safety is another big issue. How does a camp keep track of the kids, and what are the rules for dropping them off and picking them up? Find out what kind of medical procedures are in place if a child is hurt. And the lower the kid/coach ratio, the better.

Greg Bunt, a hockey dad from Malta, N.Y., chooses camps that provide the most ice time. 

"I don't want to pay for kickball, watching movies or hanging out with college or pro players," he says. "I want the maximum skill development for my money."

Peter Bellendir, from Fond du Lac, Wis., prefers a camp that keeps his kids on the ice twice a week all summer. 

"I like that option," he says, "Because they are able to work on skills continuously."

It's not the amount of ice time, but the coaches that matter to Fulton, N.Y., hockey mom Julie Bennett. 

"I want good role models for my player that focuses on the whole child," she says.

A word to the wise for goalie parents. 

"We learned the hard way that many hockey camps might welcome goalies, but really only to provide a target for shooters, without providing much coaching or training for goalies," says my fellow Syracuse Nationals mom, Dennell Jay.                     

"We learned to be very choosy about the type of camp [goalie vs. shooter], age range, skill level, and staff ratios. Otherwise, it can be a waste of money and waste of time for the parent who has to shuffle them to camp."

And, Minneapolis dad Michael Farnham reminds us, it summertime and the living is supposed to be easy. Working on skills is an important aspect of any summer hockey camp, but it needs to be an enjoyable experience.

"A big thing is for you to find something your kid will have fun doing, because if they don't have fun they will not enjoy the camp."

 

Issue: 
2018-04

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