From the questions I get about my own summer hockey camps, and with so many camps to choose from, I know that there are parents out there who don't know exactly what they are all about and are confused about what makes a really good camp.
Summer hockey camps fall into two distinct categories. The first kind of camp involves supplemental training for the upcoming season, while the second amounts to nothing more than glorified day care. Parents should obviously be looking for the first kind of camp, not the second.
When I was growing up, my parents enrolled me in 1 to 2 camps per summer. The camps enabled me to focus on specific parts of my game (skating, stick handling) while also having fun. I see too many camps that seem to have as their objective trying to cycle as many kids through as possible. Although this strategy works some of the time, I advise parents to look for camps that share the following characteristics:
They limit the number of participants on the ice at any given time (my camps have a strict 30 player limit).
They have a coach to player ratio of 1 to 6 or better.
They have a proven track record or employ qualified instructors, not just former stars.
- They provide substance during "filler" time.
I make sure that the hockey camps where I teach in the summer meet these criteria.
Ask about the daily schedule
Remember that your child is going to be at camp for roughly 8 hours every day. Many camps have great on-ice instruction but tend to drop the ball when it comes to filling all of the "other" time. In addition to the on-ice portion of camp, there should be several hours off-ice where the focus should be on conditioning and classroom instruction. Make sure that the off-ice time is used productively.
I always include instructional video sessions (not "hockey's biggest hits") as well as motivational/educational lectures to the kids each and every day. You don't want to be paying for your child to be spending his or her time playing kickball or having an extra long lunch. The off-ice time is critical because it provides an opportunity to learn and grow in all aspects of the game. Don't be afraid to call the camp and ask as many questions as you need to make an informed decision. If you can find a camp that fulfills these criteria then you have found yourself a great hockey school for the money.
I still remember participating as a kid in summer hockey schools and I am sure that by doing a little research and finding a great school for your child, you will also be providing a lasting memory for your hockey playing son or daughter and helping them to be better hockey players.