|Recently, I have been in discussions with multiple people who are wondering if they should put their child in a group training session (such as a hockey camp or a hockey clinic) or if they should get individual lessons for their child during the off season. They have concerns regarding what their child will get out of each type of session, if there investment of money and time will be worth it and ultimately will their child become a better hockey player for the upcoming season. All are important concerns that every hockey parent faces at one point in their child's hockey career.|
The great news is that each type of learning environment provides valuable opportunities for your child to grow and become a better hockey player. With the right expectations, you can't go wrong with any of them. The key is knowing the differences between a group learning environment and an individual learning environment. By knowing the key differences, you can ensure you set the right expectations and invest your time and money to meet the needs you and your child have.
Let's first look at a group learning environment. This type of learning environment is designed to teach players key topics or skills that apply generally to the group. Once demonstrated to the group, each player in the group then typically performs the skill themselves while also being able to watch their peers perform the skill. Watching their peers is a valuable way for a player to understand how they compare to their peer's skill level. When a player struggles, they work harder to not be the worst performer in the group and when a player can demonstrate a skill as well or better than others, their self-esteem rises. Here are several other key pros and cons of a group learning environment:
Hockey camps are fun! Like all types of summer "camps" the player will get an experience broader than just learning the activity the camp is intended for. Here players build friendships, get to experience a little independence and learn a lot of hockey from skilled instructors as well as from each other. The player will be involved in activities that go beyond just on-ice hockey skills or activities. Learning will occur on the ice, on dry land and in the classroom. Due to these events sometimes including housing and meals and/or lasting for a larger period of time per day, they tend to be the most expensive option for hockey training however in many cases the costs are outweighed by the friendships built, the fun that is had, the learning that is gained and the overall experiences the child gets.
Clinics are like camps however the players are typically not housed or fed during the event and the duration of the event is contained to shorter period of time each day. Players still get to interact and have fun with their peers in a group setting as well as learn a lot of hockey from skilled instructors. The player is usually driven in each day to the session and will leave following the completion of the session. The player will interact with other players and gain friendships however the time spent together is only during the event's duration. Because housing and eating are typically not included in these events, the costs incurred are usually lower than the cost of attending a camp.
Individual lessons are the least expensive option per session however depending on the number of sessions the player attends the costs could become comparable to a clinic or camp. As outlined in the "Individual Learning" section above the key value of this type of instruction is the dedication of focus the instructor gives to the player and the ability for the player to repeat skill demonstration until they can perform it or are confident in their understanding. A player loses out on the social interaction with this type of session however the focus on developing their skills is greatly increased with the potential for retention and future demonstration in live play more likely.
Hopefully the information you have read above gives you a better sense of what to look for when choosing which type of training to get your child involved in. Just remember that getting them out there is the important part whether it is in a session with an instructor or out on the driveway playing street hockey. Providing the environment is the parent's role, learning and performing is the child's role.
Before I wrap up, I want to remind you that these learning environments are not the golden ticket to your child becoming the next star player of their team. Each type of instruction will greatly help your child however continued practice after the event is essential for the taught skills to be converted into ongoing demonstrable ability. Hockey is a game that requires a lot of practice and every player should practice the way they want to perform in a game. Try not to be frustrated if your child is the same player after the event than they were before the event. With repeated practice of what they learned, change will happen over time and you'll see your investment pay off dividends. We wish you the best with whatever choices you make and hope that your child continues to love and enjoy the game of hockey for the rest of their lives.