The Perfect Hockey Camp for You

What is it that makes a great hockey camp (or a great camp for kids for that matter)?

I asked this question and here are some of the answers I got:

  • It's which one devotes more resources to instruction than to the extras.
  • 2 hours of ice time per day plus 1 hour of dryland – two 30 minute sessions plus explanation and video time. Give adequate rest and nutrition.
  • Ratio: I believe for 20 skaters you should have a minimum of 5.
  • Most important is who is running the camp. Just because it's got ex pros doesn't mean it's better.
  • Good for players isn't always good for goalies. Same with boys vs girls.
  • Hockey camps and power skating. Hockey camps were great but a wise man once said… The legs feed the wolves.
  • Brief your kids about the experience so they can get the most out of it.
  • A camp that is enjoyable and FUN.
  • Quality over time. More ice time is not a benchmark for better development or a better camp. Make sure you are getting what you want out of the camp and understand why you want to attend that camp. Understand the main purpose of the camp and if it will help your players weaker skills and not just enhance the skills they are already good at.

I see 3 themes that emerge that make a hockey camp great:

  1. Fun

  2. Quality of education

  3. Connection of child to instructor

I have been asked to present at many hockey camps. I am always thrilled when this happens because it means that…

  1. Hockey is evolving to include sports nutrition
  2. Hockey people are asking experts to help them create their nutrition programs
The conversation usually goes like this: 

Camp director “Would you like to come present at our hockey camp?”

Me “Teaching nutrition to hockey players is my passion…ummm, yes!”
Great! How much do you charge?
Me “What is your budget”

… I say this knowing full well that the amount they budgeted will be lower than my professional value.  Advanced sports dietitians are valued at $200 an hour (or more) which is quite reasonable when you consider the training required. So a 1 hour presentation to a hockey camp with hands on activities that are age and sport specific will require 2-3 hours of preparation +  often extra travel time. If you do that math, we are talking well over $600, right?

But hockey camps do not have (or make) this budget for their nutrition session. It would be tough to justify due to the cost of hockey camps already being quite steep and the fact that this session usually represents 1 hour out of the entire week.

On top of budget, I find another hardship with high level sports dietitians like myself presenting at hockey camps.

A great hockey camp allows for the kids to connect with their instructor and there is usually 1 nutrition instructor to 20+ kids! The ability to create a deep connection and give individual feedback is limited.

So what can I do?  I am over-budget, over-ideal ratio, but full to the brim with high level sports nutrition knowledge that the hockey families and hockey players will benefit from.

The camp organizers know this or they would not be seeking out nutrition expertise.

Of course I wouldn’t be here if I wasn’t going to give you the solution:

 

Partnerships.

 

For the reasons listed above all nutrition professionals should aim to build meaningful and mutually beneficial partnerships with hockey camps.

A partnership is different than a one-off nutrition session. A partnership can allow for us to form a network around the campers and offer them continuity after the one nutrition session. This is so that when they come home and say to their mom:

 The nutrition person told us not to eat pudding before hockey”, the mom can correct the misunderstanding for the child. She can say “You misheard as I see that it says do not eat poutine (french fries, cheese, and gravy) right before hockey.”

Eat This for Performance partners with Melodie Daoust hockey camp!

Melodie Daoust recently had her inaugural hockey camp. She is an innovator and was open to partnership. The result is a sports nutrition experience that is FUN, CREATES DEEP CONNECTIONS, and IS EDUCATIONAL.

Here is a glimpse at the result (at the writing of this blog the result is still unfolding).

The campers got to hear from Melodie herself talk about how nutrition helped her get to the Olympics. Because of our partnership it was easy to take time away from the expert and focus on hearing about how Melo used sports nutrition. The head of the camp (and a role model) talking about the role of nutrition leaves a great impact when presented alongside the nutrition session. I bet you are curious to hear what she said so I have a surprise for you! Here are some of her tips:

The campers have an opportunity to connect with their nutrition professional all year long so we can continue to build on our relationship. They are invited to special presentations. They have a direct line to continue to learn from me through social media. But, most importantly, they will be able to learn and implement what they learned gradually over the next hockey season with a structured sports nutrition program.

What's Next?

The campers get to continue their journey in the nutrition challenge a few weeks after camp. In my experience kids love challenges, however, we need the help of the parents when it comes to food. An 8 year old is not grocery shopping yet (usually!) so the challenge allows for the whole hockey family to continue the fun learning experience together. And, the continuity of the nutrition challenge allows the family to connect to each other which is a beautiful result.

What do you think about sports nutrition at hockey camps?

Share your thoughts in the comments. 

Another sports dietitian offers some advice to camp directors…

A word from RD Debora Sloan of www.deborasloanhealthysolutions.com

“Being asked to speak ‘performance nutrition’ to four separate sport camps this summer, including an elite level hockey goalie camp, got me excited. Team sports are starting to consider the role of nutrition in their game, and furthermore seeking out an RD. Yay! Disappointing though, that each request was made on a last minute basis, forcing me to question why nutrition is still on the side lines despite the undeniable relationship between proper fuel and performance. 

It’s clear by the bombardment of questions, that families need this info; and we know that a single seminar is just the tip of the iceberg. All you can do is hope they will reach out for more. Strength training and athletic therapy, are rigorous and constant, and the nutrition intervention should be too. At the top of our game, Sport Dietitians have the exact skill set to give athletes the edge. We can and should be an integrated part of the team, working with the athletes, the coaches and the families throughout the season to support their evolving needs and challenges.”

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