There’s No One-Size-Fits-All Approach to Choosing Summer Hockey Camps

Take the player’s needs — and fun — into account


By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI – With the coronavirus crisis dominating everyone’s lives, hockey might be a distant afterthought.

But after the pandemic is hopefully under control, players and parents can focus on the sport again. Once that day happens, getting signed up for summer camps could become a huge priority.

USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager Dan Jablonic said the first step in deciding which camp or camps a youth player is going to attend is sitting down as a family. The player should evaluate his or her skills to determine which areas of their game need to be worked on the most.

Maybe a player wants to concentrate on becoming better defensively. There’s a camp for that. A player is looking to improve stick-handling skills. There’s a camp to improve that area, too. There are endless opportunities.

“The number one thing to look at is, ‘What are my weaknesses and what do I want to focus on?’” Jablonic said. “Then it goes to a family discussion, a lot of local communities have great camps that are close to you and you can kind of supplement your training with a local camp based on your availability, your schedule through the course of the summer.

“On the other side of it, there’s the overnight camps. I know there’s a lot of father-son camps or father-daughter and it really comes back to, what kind of experience are you looking to get? No camp is going to make you a complete hockey player in one week.”

Jablonic would like each kid to take away a few things from each camp that he or she can use during the following season.

“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,” Jablonic said. “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.”

It’s a good idea for parents to contact the camp director with any questions. It’s never a bad thought to ask what skill levels are being offered at the camp. For example, if a kid is a third-year player and just getting going, less advanced instruction is appropriate.

“You don’t want to put them in something where all of a sudden they’re playing against somebody that’s five, six years into it and at such a higher level that they’re experiencing no fun, they get discouraged,” Jablonic said. “At the same time, you don’t want to put the player that’s been playing for a long time with somebody that’s brand new so then they’re not challenged.”

Ultimately, the player should decide which camp to attend. Having a parent push camps on their kid isn’t going to allow for a fun experience.

“I’d be wrong if I was telling parents how to parent, but I think kids always give a pretty good barometer of really what they want to do with their interest level,” Jablonic said. “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.”

Parents also need to remember, Jablonic stressed, that they need to find the correct balance between hockey and everyday life for their hockey player.

“Five hockey camps in the summer isn’t going to make your kid a better hockey player, it’s going to essentially lead them to more of a burnout,” Jablonic said. “We still want kids to be kids. Obviously, living here in the Midwest and all the different outdoor activities that kids can get exposed to — being at a lake or going to a local park — are a good thing.”

With kids being cooped up and confined pretty much to their house or yards, it’s an ideal situation to explore and be creative.

“It’s a good time right now, just create that environment for your kids,” Jablonic said. “Most families have a backyard — let the kids be kids. You don’t have to go out and buy a bunch of different props but let the kids kind of figure some things out where they’re building that athleticism, agility, balance, coordination that we preach. They’re going to come up with fun games that are really going to help them long term. Because, guess what, having a month off hockey is not a bad thing. You’re going to be so recharged, refreshed that suddenly the fall comes, and these kids can’t wait to get back on the ice.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.



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