As we’ve seen in the first three parts of Training Camp Exceptional, there are several elements to prepare long before the players hit the ice for the first time. But now that your schedule is dialled in, the teams are organized, and you’ve made your expectations clear, it’s time to do what we’re all here to do: watch hockey.
One thing that’s helped me over the past two years is seeking character references from scouts and past coaches. The fewer surprises the better. So when a player smashes their stick against the boards on the first day of camp I want to know if it’s behaviour that can be channelled properly or if it’s a consistent part of this person’s attitude. We all have to tackle the bad body language from time to time, and we all have different tolerance levels. Throwing a tantrum is never a positive first impression on a coach, but I also don’t think this type of behaviour should result in immediate write-off. Anxiety, pressure, rust – these can all show up early in camp, but if they’re hiding a player who’s better known for their resiliency, passion, and skill, then hopefully there’s someone who knows the player and can vouch for them. Maybe this is a player you can work with. Maybe they just need a steady hand. Maybe their positive impact on the team is worth the growing pains. But maybe none of these are true and, well, your decision is easier. In truth, those players have made the decision for you long before camp began.
This is the fourth of a six part series called Training Camp Exceptional. Here’s the criteria we used:
As the range of contributing coaches demonstrates, we made a distinction between training camp and tryouts. This series is generally intended for junior hockey and older, though many elements will no doubt apply to U18 and younger.
Each post will cover the bones of training camp, from the planning, implementation, and fall-out. Hopefully you’ll get some inspiration or knowledge to help you run your next camp.
- Training Camp Exceptional Part 1: Schedules, volunteers & extras
- Training Camp Exceptional Part 2: On-ice training camp options
- Training Camp Exceptional Part 3: Pre-game guidance and communication
- Training Camp Exceptional Part 4: Training camp evaluation
- Training Camp Exceptional Part 5: Exit meetings
- Training Camp Exceptional Part 6: Post-camp team building
Before Camp: Do Your Homework
For the Rapid City Rush’s Scott Burt, researching a player’s character before camp begins is a crucial part of the job in his first year as a head coach in the ECHL.
“Here at the ECHL level we don’t have any scouts that would attend our camp, so it’s important to gather as much info as possible in the summer. It’s the key to our recruiting and has a big impact on camp and eventually the team. This is a fresh situation so we lean on the relationship we built with individual players throughout the summer or with our teams last season.”
- Scott Burt, Rapid City Rush
Whether you’re coaching junior hockey or the professional ranks, every player who walks into your rink will be unique. Digging into their character prior to camp will help you validate what you’re seeing on the ice, and it will either develop trust that the player can continue strong play when the games start and the score counts, or it can continue a trend of negativity that might help you decide that the player isn’t worth bringing through.
During Camp: What Are You Looking For?
This is probably the section of Training Camp Exceptional in which the range of answers is just too large to effectively boil down, so we won’t try, but we will define what works for our contributors. The easy answer is that we’re all looking for the best players, right? Definitely, but ultimately we want to have the best team.
We’ve covered character already, but when it comes to on-ice contributions you’ll inevitably have to consider:
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