With spring in the air and summer just around the corner, many hockey families are shopping around for camps where their child can improve their skills over the summer months. Day and residential camps are a popular destination for players to develop, while also having some fun on and off the ice.
There are a wide variety of camp offerings and other hockey opportunities throughout the off-season. So which programs are right for you?
American Development Model (ADM) Regional Manager Guy Gosselin and Minnesota Hockey Associate Goalie Coach-in-Chief Justin Johnson have some tips for parents of young players and goaltenders looking to maximize development and FUN through off-season camps:
- Ask for references. From time to time, parents find that the image on the brochure and the explanation of the coaching they’d receive didn’t match the experience they actually had. To avoid this type of unfortunate situation, do your homework by asking for references. Ask questions and use that feedback to narrow down your list of choices.
- Look for the right amount of training. For most kids, four hours is the maximum they can handle and still actually gain something from the instruction. That number decreases as the intensity of the camp increases. In other words, if the day also includes dry-land workouts, plyometrics and outdoor activities, then you may be wasting your time and money on that fourth hour of ice that day.
- Find the appropriate playing/skill level. Elite, Advanced, Pro and other terms like this mean many different things to many people. Seek out exactly what the camp is looking for when they say Elite Peewee Camp and if it matches your son or daughter’s skill level.
- Specifically for netminders, the goalie-to-coach ratio is important. Depending on what other on-ice training a camp has, goalies participating in a 4:1 goalie-to-coach ratio is respectable, with a 3:1 ratio being ideal for most ages and skill levels. If you are looking for exceptional attention and maximum shots in the net, then 2:1 is the way to go.
- Look for benefits beyond hockey skills development. Camp can be a great way to meet other kids who have hockey in common but also share different interests and hobbies. Meeting kids outside of their own social circles is great for developing confidence.
- Take a realistic approach to hockey skills development when sending your child to camp. Focus on taking 2-4 things (wrist shot, backwards skating, etc.) from camp to work on and go from there. Don’t expect a complete transformation. As Gosselin says, “You’re not going to turn into Wayne Gretzky with one week of hockey camp.”
- Focus on the Fun Factor. Kids are going to hockey camp to have fun, not sign an NHL contract. Whether it be scrimmages everyday, overnights, a water park, outdoor soccer/football or meeting a big name college/NHL player, remember that it’s all about the kids. The Fun Factor will ultimately keep kids coming back excited and motivated.
- Hockey camp shouldn't prevent participation in other activities. USA Hockey and Minnesota Hockey want hockey players to play other sports and summer is a great time to do it. Whether it’s baseball, swimming, tennis, school, music or other activities, don’t let hockey camp interfere with any prior commitments your child has made.
- Limit to one per summer. Young kids – and even older elite players – need time away from hockey. Don’t let them get burnt out. Allow the kids to enjoy time in other activities/sports away from the rink. Once fall comes back around, they will be refreshed and thrilled to put the skates back on! Don't let the kids feel pressured because everyone else is going to camp(s). If you’re child doesn't play any hockey in the summer, they will not be left behind.
- Which camp does your kid want to go to? Children may not understand the concept or weight of overall cost that goes into making these decisions, but that doesn’t mean their opinion shouldn’t be heard. Let them influence the camp selection. They know what activities are the most enjoyable to them and how long of a camp they’d like to take part in.