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Deflections: Elite camps ahead!

 

Is your child an elite player? If so, watch out.

I got an email once from a bantam parent whose son is, by all accounts, pretty good. The kid is 5’ 4” tall and weighs about 135 lbs. For bantam, that’s a tad on the smaller side. He’s going into midget and the parent wondered about the need for his son to attend the plethora of camps run by junior clubs or league/regional programs, ostensibly to scout or at least identify talent.

Wouldn’t they already know about him, he asked?

Do I really need to spend all this extra dough on one camp after another?

Is there a safety issue for him going to these and possibly being up against other midget age boys as much as two years older?

Yes.

No.

Maybe.

I felt for the man. Unless you’ve already been through the mill with a child or scouted or coached at this level yourself, no parent could feel completely comfortable with the not-so-subtle invitations. Will my boy be blackballed or shunted to the bottom of the draft list? Will coaches or scouts suspect he’s afraid to be up against all the other top prospects at one time? Is hockey not a priority for him next year? Will people wonder if we realize the kid’s potential? Or are we just being difficult? Can he go to only certain camps? Which ones? How to choose? Is it being overly protective to keep him away from kids two or three years older and more physically mature? Does he even want to go to any of these? Is my parenting going to be called into question no matter what choice we make?

Some years back, renowned American sports psychologist Thomas Tutko gave a talk at a hockey conference. His presentation was taped and shown at coaching clinics. He made numerous marvelous points about the impact of coaches and parents on young players. However, one comment in particular stood out. To paraphrase, just because your child is able to play elite sport does not make you a better parent.

In that vein, asking questions about attending camps surely doesn’t make one a worse parent. If you hold the boy back from some or all and he does another activity, that doesn’t make you a bad parent either. You’re not denying the boy an opportunity; in fact, you may be doing him a big favour. Exposing him to other sports and allowing him much needed rest after a long season are two sound reasons.

Indeed, it’s exciting having a kid who’s in elite company in anything. It’s also a path fraught with potholes which need careful negotiating. Drive carefully.

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