When bombarded with information about off-season hockey camps, it’s easy to feel panic and think, “If I don’t get organized, get him signed up—and pay!—for these camps today, I’m holding him back!” Dreams of the NHL, the college scholarship or maybe just an A team fizzle before your eyes as you contemplate putting your tax refund toward more hockey. How do you evaluate all the information and decide what’s right for your player? We asked Angelo Ricci, a skills and stickhandling coach with more than 20 years experience, for help.
According to Ricci:
Focus on Fun: When selecting what hockey camp to attend, please consider a camp that promises two things: fun and hockey skills. I think fun is the most important consideration and many parents forget this part. This is a “summer hockey camp,” so please remember that it is summer and it is a camp, so it should fun. If the player is not having fun, the learning part will not reach its maximum potential.
Fundamentals are Key: This game is all about skating and puck control skills. I encourage you to look for a camp that will teach your player the fundamentals of all skills, offer repetition of puck and skating skills, and improve on their existing skills—plus correct anything that might be wrong with a player’s skills.
Checking Camp is Crucial: At the PeeWee level, checking skills and body contact drills become very important. It is imperative that players are properly taught how to give and receive checks. It will help their confidence immensely when they transition from Squirts to PeeWees.
When reviewing camp information, compare the following:
Instructors’ qualifications, experience and character as role models
Instructor-to-player ratio (6 or 7 kids per coach is good; the important thing is that the coaches who are there interact with the kids)
Availability of off-ice training
Price (a general guideline is $25-$30 per hour of camp; costs vary by location)
Schedule: Are there many choices to work around your busy schedule
Camp choices: General or specific skill development
Convenience: Can we get there easily, on time?
Fun: Is it marketed as fun? Will my kid want to come back next summer?
Ricci concludes that the best way to find out which camps are beneficial to player development is by word of mouth from other hockey parents. If their kids attended the camp, ask them if they enjoyed it. Ricci also recommends a less structured three-on-three or four-on-four summer league: “It will allow players to develop their skills, be creative and not feel the pressure of negative feedback from a coach if a mistake is made.”
Special thanks to Angelo Ricci for providing information for this article. Ricci is founder, head instructor and consultant for Ricci Hockey Consulting (www.riccihockey.com). With 20+ years experience as a skills and stickhandling coach, he conducts/oversees more than 40 programs year-round that develop over 1,000 players each year.