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Mom Mondays: The ins and outs of choosing the right summer hockey camp

(Leafs Hockey School)

Summer is here – and so are the hockey camps!

Another school year is coming to an end and with the joy that comes with not making school lunches and signing school fieldtrip forms there comes another ugly truth: what am I going to do with three kids for ten whole weeks?!

If you’re a hockey mom, chances are you’ll be searching for a summer hockey camp for your kids.

Choosing the right hockey camp isn’t always easy. HockeyNow’s website has a handbook of hockey schools that also includes summer hockey camps to help you make your selection, and your town or city’s Parks and Recreation Guides will also list an abundance of them and no doubt your local arena bulletin board is plastered with suggestions but what should you be looking for?

This will be the first summer in the last 15 years that I am not actively seeking out a summer hockey camp for any of my kids. My two boys have retired from hockey and now both have summer jobs and my daughter, now 14, is keen on spending less time on hockey camps and more time on boys and friends. (Wait a minute. I better rethink summer camp arrangements, quick!)

As I write this, I am shuddering at the thought of the money I’ve spent on hockey camps over the last 15 years. Some summers it topped a thousand dollars, I’m sure. So, I’ve made a list of the things I looked for in choosing a hockey camp for my kids.

Keep in mind that this list was made giving consideration to the fact that I was not raising the next hot NHL prospects, just three kids who happen to love playing hockey.

- I set a budget. The cost of hockey camps can vary drastically. Was I paying to have my kids on the ice all day? Did the camp promise the prospect that a current NHL player will show up for 15 minutes on Thursday afternoon to sign some jerseys? If so, there is likely a premium to be paid. If these are important to you or your child, sign them up.

- I signed them up with a friend. Having at least one person they knew at the camp made a big difference in my kids’ enjoyment. Not to mention the convenience of sharing the camp commute to and from was a huge bonus for me too.

- I picked a camp that offered a hot lunch. Okay, I guess this was purely selfish on my part because I know I can pack a much healthier lunch than what will be offered at a summer camp (think eat, sleep, hockey, chicken nuggets, repeat). But it’s summer, and I feel justified in taking a much-deserved break from packing lunches!

- I made sure they’re not going to spend all day on the ice. How much hockey do they really need? As per my first point, if your child will be spending all day on the ice, you’re going to pay (in fees) and they’re going to pay (in fatigue). Two sessions over the course of each day was plenty for my kids. Find out what other activities are part of the program. Is there a pool, gym, baseball diamond or Park? It’s a fact that skill development and team-building skills happen off the ice too.

- I made sure not all the counsellors are hockey players. Not all great hockey players can teach hockey and not all great hockey players enjoy kids. Make sure there are counsellors that actually enjoy being with children. On the other hand, make sure at least some of the counsellors are hockey players and are well versed in hockey skills development and training.

- I asked what the counsellor to camper ratio was. If a counsellor hasn’t learned your child’s name by the end of day one (and I mean without referring the hockey tape on their helmet with their first name on it), I think that’s a problem.

- I always checked the age groupings and the skill level requirement. Some camps will specialize in competitive player camps and some in recreational player camps. If my twelve-year-old Martin Brodeur was going to be grouped with eight year olds because the camp experienced poor enrolment, I knew it would be a recipe for disappointment (unless your twelve year old wants to become adept at tying skates for all those eight year olds).

- I need to know if after/before care was offered. For the first few hockey camp summers, I was a SAHM but soon we were a dual career family, and the drop off and pick up times were not compatible with my work schedule (or the schedule of the other hockey camps in which my other kids were registered). My husband I were occasionally the bane of the counsellors’ existence for our late pick-ups! When carpooling with the parents of my kids’ friends, all was well. Though I did owe a bottle of wine or two for not sharing equally in the responsibilities of carpooling!

What other criteria would you add to this list? Ultimately for me the most important criteria of a great hockey camp isn’t 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 as it should be, your child is guaranteed to have a great experience.

So three cheers for all those hockey camp counselors. Summer is finally here!

Tags: minor hockey

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