Finding the Right Summer Hockey Camps and Clinics
I was talking to another hockey dad the other night while we sat in the bleachers watching our kids participate in a skills clinic we'd signed up for.
Our kids on the ice were all bantams and peewees but we've known each other since they were all in learn to skate programs together.
We've chosen different paths along the way -- none of our combined kids have ever actually even been teammates outside of pick-up or spring league games -- but all of them are at around the same skill level.
Cusp of elite...tryouts aren't very stressful. They're front of the pack.
Sheesh...that sounds arrogant already...
Wait until you see where this one is going...
Anyway, we cross paths maybe once or twice per year, usually in a rink lobby far from home as one of us is shuffling in as the other is shuffling out but there's this connection -- we're one in the same.
So, we're sitting up there watching this group of coaches put the players through a series of drills.
The main coach is outstanding.
We've both worked with him for nearly a decade now...but, tonight, it feels...different.
Blankly staring ahead, watching our kids, he leans over and asks, "What are you thinking?"
I pause...and then respond, "Honestly, not sure I'm coming back next week..."
He nods, "Same."
We watch for a few more minutes and then both come to the conclusion that none of our kids are getting ANYTHING out of these 90 minutes on the ice. Nothing.
Complete waste of time.
And that's the thing. If it had been my youngest out there, sure, I'd still have been disappointed but it still would have been okay.
For the 5, 6, 7 year old crowd, ice time is ice time. Just standing in line doing little transitions cause they can't stand still builds better balance and edge control.
Ice time, alone, is a valuable skill builder.
But for teenagers? Not so much.
They're just going through the motions.
There isn't any correction from the coaches.
There isn't any push to go full speed.
Whistle blows, you do your little turn, and get back in line. Repeat five times.
Total fail. We both agreed.
And that's when we got talking -- this far into the process, we really vet the camps and clinics we sign our children up for. If it's not pushing our kids or they're surrounded by less talented players, it's not only a waste of time but it's a huge waste of money too.
If you've considered signing your kids up for hockey camp in the summer, you've surely found there are tons and tons of them. Most...being honest, here...are just money grabs.
Your kids will not gain anything from them so it ends up being really expensive day care, essentially...
Like, this specific camp, with two kids each, we're both tossing in over $700 for a couple nights per week for a month.
We're both openly super picky about what we sign our kids up for and this one, hard to admit now, passed our evaluation.
For us, it was the coach.
He'd been amazing in years prior.
We came back year after year. Did private lessons when we could and broadcast routinely to our likeminded hockey families -- hey, you should check this guy out.
This summer...not so much.
So what happened? I think we figured it out.
The passion is gone.
For this coach, this camp/clinic thing is a cash cow. Plain and simple.
It's almost glaringly obvious.
Every kid out there has dollar signs over their head -- whether they improve or not.
The money is already in hand -- there's not really much incentive to call kids out on mistakes or point out where improvements can be made.
What was only 4 kids on the ice when we'd originally started -- and he was the regular season coach for two of them while recruiting the other two soon turned into 6 kids on the ice.
It was still stellar training.
Fast forward to now, though, over a 3-hour period on the ice, there are 60+ players out there -- a majority of the skill level he wouldn't have even considered working with in years prior.
There isn't any vested interest on his part...besides a huge mid-summer pay day.
Players like mine can leave, he won't mind, we're easily replaced by kids that can't do crossovers.
It doesn't have any effect on his bottom line. We're not his players, he's not recruiting us -- we're just dollar signs.
And that got us talking about some of the other coaches we used to utilize that we're not anymore...and it became clear, this is all too common.
It's just not for us. His target audience has changed -- he's not going for quality; he's going for quantity now. Money, essentially.
And that's what you need to watch out for when selecting clinics and camps as your player gets more and more skilled.
Next week -- my kids will be attending a different skills clinic that overlapped this one.
For our money -- one-on-one is the best way to go. Small groups work too if the players are all of like ability...
And for bigger groups, only if the coach is outstanding (and you know this personally) and they have a vested interest in developing the kids on the ice.
Thankfully, we have another local group that checks off all of those boxes...and the rink is closer to home too!
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Agree? Disagree? Let me know -- I love the feedback from all angles!