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6 Strategies for a Great Summer Camp Experience

By Minnesota Hockey, 05/18/21, 3:15PM CDT


Summer hockey camps are officially back in 2021!

There are so many reasons people are excited to “get back to normal”, and the list of activities everyone is looking forward to this summer is long. For many hockey families, one of those items, if they haven’t done so already, is figuring out and preparing for hockey camp.

To help, we put together six simple but crucial strategies for ensuring your kid’s return to hockey camps this year comes as close as possible to making up for the memories missed out on last summer.

The Game Plan

The first and most important step of selecting a summer camp is talking to your son(s) or daughter(s). There are so many options these days for camps and determining what’s important to them helps narrow it down quickly.

Do they want a day camp or overnight? How important is it to stay local or attend a camp with a friend? Are there specific skills he/she wants to focus on? Do they want to attend a camp offered by their favorite team or player?

“Kids always give a pretty good barometer of really what they want to do with their interest level,” said Dan Jablonic, who serves as a USA Hockey ADM Manager, told AHAI. “Obviously, when you think of the word camp, it should be fun, right? So, that’s the utmost importance for the kid. It’s like, ‘This sounds like a really fun camp, mom or dad.’ Look at the things they’re offering within the camp, it’s not just hockey, it’s other activities that we’re doing. ‘I get to go do that, have some friendships with some new hockey friends.’ I think that’s important to really look at.”

Age & Skill Appropriate

Once your child voices his or her opinion, it’s important for you factor in their age and skill level. Many camps will offer different sessions for younger players and more advanced, older players, but there can also be big differences in the style of camp.

You should be able to get a feel for the camp’s style by how their promotional materials and a sample schedule. Finding a camp that offers a similar intensity and style to your child’s age, skill and interest will have a huge impact on their experience.

Do Your Homework

“As a parent, it’s your job to give your kids an experience and do the research and find out what the camps are about,” said Jablonic, a Blaine native and UMD alum. “Make sure they fit in with what you want to achieve with those camps and make sure fun is one of the most important things and obviously that can be expressed in different ways.”

Ask fellow hockey parents from your community if anyone has attended various camps or if they have suggestions and why. If there’s a specific camp your family is interested in that no one has attended, don’t be afraid to call and ask questions. It’s in the camp’s best interest for kids to find the right fit and have a great experience so camp staff should be available to provide more detail on the camp schedule, activities, instructors and much more.

Prevent Homesickness

For younger players, overcoming any sort of homesickness at an overnight camp may be the difference in how they feel about the camp. The American Camp Association (ACA) notes almost all children experience homesickness at least one day at overnight camps, especially during longer camps. The good news is there are ways to reduce and prevent it. Some of the ACA’s best tips are:

  • Include the child in the process of selecting a camp and packing for it
  • Practice spending time away from home, such as a sleepover or long weekend at a friend’s house
  • Determine a plan for communicating during camp and make sure to keep the focus on camp activities (not what’s happening at home!)
  • Do NOT agree to a “pick up deal”, as that undermines the child’s independence and coping strategies

Be Prepared

Whether it’s a day or overnight camp, including your child in the preparation process is a great way to build excitement for camp. Many camps provide a packing list that make it easy for kids to help pack without having to think of everything on their own.

Make sure to double check if all of your child’s equipment fits at least a couple of weeks in advance so you have time to not only purchase new gear if needed but break it in as well. Few things can ruin a hockey camp faster than having to break in new skates at camp.

Capture the Highlights

“No camp is going to make you a complete hockey player in one week,” concluded Jablonic.

Camps are a great way to expose players to new ideas and coaches, but the main focal point should be on the overall experience.

Make sure you have a plan for capturing some of the highlights, especially if campers aren’t allowed to bring cell phones. Snapping a few pictures on drop off and pick up day are always a good idea, especially if players make new friends. Autographs are always a nice keepsake for camps with big name players or coaches.

For players looking to maximize the long-term impact of a camp from a hockey development standpoint, encourage them to bring a notebook to take notes on certain concepts or drills they learn during camp. That way he or she can continue to hone those skills at home or when the season starts up again.

One way or another, try to find a way to ensure that camp makes a lasting impression because camps, and summers in general, often go by all too fast.

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