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Hockey School Reality Check

August 4, 2011 General No Comments

Hockey school reality check
By Bettina Young Prochnow
Oct 29, 2001, 20:27


One glance at the long list of summer hockey camps, here in the US and in Canada, is enough to confuse both player and parent. Sales brochures do everything but guarantee that a player coming out of their camp will be ready for the professional leagues—usually in only a week! They will tell you who their “big name professionals” are; how much ice time a skater gets a day; and then talk about their state-of-the-art facility and teaching techniques.

Stop. It’s time for a reality check. Is that famous hockey player there to teach, or just to bring in students and sign autographs? Is the promised ice time realistic? (Just try to find an athlete who can spend 10 hours a day on the ice!) How much player improvement can be expected in a one- or two-week camp? Are they still using outdated drills from the ‘50s and ‘60’s, or are they doing plyometrics and explosiveness training?

No doubt about it, finding the best camp for your money is a tough call, so here are a few guidelines to help you make an informed choice.

Cost considerations

The first consideration is financial. How much money the family can afford to spend will determine whether the player goes to a live-in camp—almost always more expensive—or attends a day camp. If you can’t afford a live-in camp, don’t fret; day camps can offer very good skill development as well.

However, for those looking into sending a player away to camp, take some advice from Glenn Olson, athletic director at Vermont’s Rutland High School and USA Hockey’s coach-in-chief for the New England District. “The number one key,” says Olson, “is to find a camp that has a lot of other recreational activities to offer.

“College coaches are seeing that on the whole, US hockey players are not well-rounded athletes. Summer should be a time to not only keep up your hockey skills, but (also) to develop athletic skills that come from other sports. The more varied athletic opportunities you participate in, the better.”

Bob McCrum, USA District head coach for the Twin Cities area in Minnesota, echoes that sentiment. “Look at Russia, which has the best hockey in the world. Many of their players didn’t pick up a hockey stick until they were 14 or 15 years old. But they grew up with intense physical training in all kinds of sports, from gymnastics to soccer.

“There are more indoor ice rinks in the Minneapolis/St. Paul area than in all of Russia,” he adds, “so you have to ask yourself if development is (taking place) on ice or off ice?”

Obviously, a mix of both is important. When looking into a camp’s on-ice sessions, Bob suggests you watch the drills.

Avoiding grinders

“You don’t want to go to a camp for example, where ‘grinders’ are still being done. I was doing those back in the ‘50s—(drills) where you skate to the blue line as fast as you can, stop, turn and skate back to the red line only to stop, turn and go back to the blue line.”

This is a drill that teaches two things, he says—endur-ance, and how to cheat (watch how well a kid stops by the third or fourth go-round)—in a game where endurance is not needed. What is needed is explosiveness, quickness and power training, followed by recuperation time—which is just as important as power.

“A camp that is on the cutting edge will have this kind of training along with correctly designed practices—where kids are with the puck more than they’re not!”

The basic skills of stickhandling, passing, receiving, shooting, and checking should always be emphasized.

“The one big area where you can see growth and development in a hockey player from a camp,” says Olson, “is in one that specializes in developing these basic skills.”

Some of these include power skating camps like Laura Stamm, Gary Hebert, Robby Glantz and Paul Vincent, which have sessions in all parts of the country. Turcotte Stickhandling is another one. And Huron Hockey Schools have sessions all over the country as well.

The good news is that many of these types of camps are day camps, which helps keep costs down.

“Keep in mind,” adds Olson, “that the time of year may make a difference in how well a player retains his new skills.” A player that attends a session in June may not be quite as sharp by September.

Finally, just who is doing the coaching at these camps? You don’t always need “a big name.”

“My personal preference,” Olson says, “is (a camp with) an all college and/or high school coaching staff. They have experience teaching and they develop hockey talent for a living.”

And McCrum brings an often forgotten point into the decision-making process. “The best coach,” he notes, “is one who helps kids have fun and keeps them fired up.”

Which is what summer hockey camp should be all about.


Bettina Young Prochnow is a hockey player with the NCWHL and has two sons in hockey. She is a columnist for a newspaper in Livermore, CA.

This first appeared in the 06/1995 issue of Hockey Player Magazine®
© Copyright 1991-2001 Hockey Player® and Hockey Player Magazine®

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