Summer is now well underway and if you haven’t already signed up your child for summer hockey camp, what’s wrong with you?! You are probably up that creek without a hockey stick!
Fear not. Summer hockey camps are as plentiful in most parts of Canada as mosquitos in July. Here are a few resources to help you find one:
- The HockeyNow’s website has a handbook of hockey schools that also includes summer hockey camps;
- Your town city’s Parks and Recreation Guides will also list them;
- No doubt your home hockey association probably has a several notable ones on their website, and
- Your local arena bulletin board is likely plastered with suggestions.
What exactly should you be looking for in a hockey camp? You can ask your kids for starters, but that technique may have its disadvantages. They may ask for something you can’t afford or can’t get to. Rather than disappoint them, just keep it vague! I’ve spent a small fortune on summer hockey camps in my sixteen years as a hockey mom so as you might expect, I have some hockey camp tips. Bearing in mind that my children were not draft prospects, my advice comes from a decidedly low key hockey point of view.
My Top Ten list for choosing a hockey camp:
1. You should probably set a budget. Unless you’re Bill Gates, a week at hockey camp should not cost the equivalent of post-secondary school tuition. Unless of course, Bill Gates is attending the hockey camp in which case it might be worth it. You should not be dipping into your pension plan to pay for hockey camps (because Bill Gates definitely won’t be impressed with that!). The cost of camps vary across the country, so I can’t even suggest a ballpark (couldn't avoid it, sorry). My son once attended a camp that advertised appearances by NHL players. The famous player was at the camp for all of fifteen minutes and never stepped on to the ice. I think the premium I paid for that camp may have been a little unnecessary.
2. Sign your child or children up with a friend. Having at least one person they know at the camp makes Day One Drop Off go much more smoothly. The carpooling is a pretty big score too! One of my kids attended our local association hockey camp and came home so excited he knew so many of his campmates. “It was all the good parts of school and none of stuff that sucks!” he remarked after the first day. What a heart rending endorsement.
3. Considering the importance of Tip #2, register early. Some camp programs and camp weeks fill up quickly and if you or your children have their hearts set on a certain experience, make sure you know the earliest registration date and register early. What would be considered early? You can probably wait until you and the baby are home from the maternity ward but after that, anything goes! I have honestly stayed up until 12:01AM to officially register one of my kids in a very particular hockey program, at a very particular location with a very particular friend. I felt ridiculous, but I know from the online waiting room, that I was definitely not the only ridiculous one.
4. Two words: Hot lunch. You haven’t even begun to recuperate from ten months of school lunches and you need a break. Your kids need a break. If the brochure says, “Hot lunch offered daily”, you’re an automatic hero. Pat yourself on the back.
5. The camp should be in your time zone. Enough said.
6. If the camp director says there is no need to pack sunscreen because the kids will not be going outside, back away. Do not pass Go. Do not collect – or pay - $100 – or anything at all. Just back away.
7. What are the other non-hockey activities planned for the week? They can’t – shouldn’t - be on the ice eight hours a day (if they are, see #6). Make sure these activities align with your child’s interest. Hockey and Horses may not be everyone’s cup of tea. Unless there is a hot lunch offered daily. In which case, just skip to Tip #8.
8. Ask about the camp counsellors. How many? How old are they? Who are they? If there is one counsellor for fifteen kids, that’s not cool, and not safe. If they’re only a year or so older than your kids, it might be a red flag (even if they’ve been helping out with the camp for years!). Equally important is that not all the counsellors have to be AAA players. They should probably – I don’t know – like working with children. My daughter once attended a camp where they had to eat lunch in their hockey gear because the counsellors got tired of helping them with their gear. Sad to say, but you should also make sure that all the camp directors and counsellor have up to date police record checks.
9. Some camps will specialize in competitive player camps and some in recreational player camps. Make sure you register your child in the right one… for your child. Sometimes camps can group ages together if the camp experiences poor enrolment. It’s a huge disappointment when your twelve-year old is grouped with a group of eight-year olds (not that there’s anything wrong with eight-year olds).
10. Any finally, in my case, I needed for find a camp that offered before and after care to accommodate my husband’s and my work schedule. While it’s great that you found a mom to drive your kids, you might end up owing more favours and more bottles of wine during the fall hockey season than you care to!
I’m sure seasoned hockey moms have other hockey camp selection criteria to add to this list. What are yours? Ultimately for me the most important criteria of a great hockey camp is not necessarily the great hockey skill development program, but whether or not my children had fun. If the counsellors and camp directors are dedicated to this criterion as the number one goal of a summer hockey camp, your child is guaranteed to have a great camp experience.
So three cheers for summer hockey camp – hot lunch and all!
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