Friday, August 30, 2013

Goalie Camp Reviews - Summer 2013

This spring when I was looking for Goalie camp options for my son, there seemed to be precious little good (non-marketing) information out there.  I would have appreciated someone taking the time to share their experiences from past summers so in that spirit, here is a quick summary and thoughts on the four programs that my son ended up participating in this summer.  I would be very interested in hearing from other goalie parents about other programs out there and their experiences (interested in Good as Gould and Pro Hybrid in particular), so feel free to chime in and we'll leave a useful resource for people to refer to for next summer...

Select Goaltending

The Edge, Bensenville

Ice Time - 9 hours;  $300

This was not a camp per se, but rather a series of weekly one hour goalie clinics running from June-July.  It is run by Ken Kaczmarek (Goalie Director for the Blues) and Bobby Whistler (Goalie Director for the Jets, and I believe others) - both of whom are terrific.  These clinics are essentially very similar to the weekly goalie clinics you would see run during the regular season by good clubs that have goalie programs.  If you are in town during these summer months, this is a great lower-impact way to keep your goalie tuned up and developing without the commitment of a whole week of camp.  It is also a great way to get or maintain visibility with two high-profile goalie coaches in the area.  


Craig Andersen Goalie School

Johnnys Ice House West, Chicago

Ice Time - 10 hours;  $400

This was a one week half-day camp run, obviously, by Craig Andersen who is the starting goalie for the Ottawa Senators.  Craig was personally present all day every day except for Friday, which happened to be the Blackhawks Stanley Cup parade day, and we skipped that day to go too.  He couldn't have been more friendly and engaged.  This was a serious goalie camp with maybe 20-25 goalies on the ice and a very good instructor ratio of around 1:3.  All the shooting drills were run by instructors (no kid shooters) and they were all structured to teach/reinforce a specific skill or situation.  Dryland and off-ice instruction was also tailored to the needs of goalies.  For the younger kids, there was a pretty good contingent of Mite and Squirt goalies in the mix.  The only thing I would say about this camp is that I wish it were a full day (4 hours of ice instead of 2).  I was somewhat surprised by how many kids seemed to come from outside of Chicago to this camp, given it was only half day.  


Future Pro Goalie School

Centre Ice, Traverse City, MI (and many others)

Ice Time - 20 hours;  $540

This is a one week full-day goalie camp run mostly on the east coast and in Michigan, though they did offer one session in Milwaukee.  Our session was run by Jeff Lerg, former MSU goaltender who took the Spartans to the NCAA National title in 2007 and now plays professionally in Italy.  This camp was broken out into Regular (7-11), Advanced (12-14), and Elite (15+) and just as an aside, the Elite goalies in this camp were by far the most skilled amateur goalies I have seen play anywhere.  For our summer experience, this camp was the gold standard.  Not only was it the most intense, focused, and professionally run, it was also the most fun for my son.  He looked forward to going every day, even though he had never experienced 4 hours of ice time a day before this.  

The instructor ratio was better than 1:2 and not only were all the drills run by instructors and tailored toward goalie development, but many of them used specialized equipment to simulate real game situation (screens, ramps, etc).  Ice and tailored dryland was also supported by classroom instruction and video reviews so the kids could actually see what they were doing right and doing wrong.  We also got a detailed goalie-specific report card at the end of the week that, to my untrained eye, seemed to nail my son's strengths and weaknesses dead on.  This was the only camp where we got written feedback.  One tip if you are close to where they offer these camps is that they offered a promotion at the end of camp to enroll in a second session during the summer at half price.  If you're willing to roll the dice, you could get a lot of training for a great value.  

Highly Recommended

Pro Ambitions Goalie Camp

Rocket Ice Arena, Bollingbrook

Ice Time – 20 hours;  $475

Let me start by saying that I found the marketing for this camp to be fairly misleading.  Based on the web site, sample video, and schedule (when you click on ‘Goalie Camps’ as per the link above), this appears to be a goalie camp in the sense of all the others reviewed above – that is a camp just for goalies.  A closer reading of the full schedule would have revealed that the goalie camp is run in conjunction with a ‘Battle Camp’ for skaters at the same time and rink.  So in essence, this is a one-week full day HOCKEY camp that offers some degree of goalie-specific training for the goalie participants.  On the first day of camp, there were nine goalies tucked in to one corner of the ice with a single goalie coach to work with them (1:9 ratio – ouch!).  Some of the drills were fine but there was really no way for him to provide much meaningful feedback and that also meant that the shooters for the goalies drills were just student participants and the quality of shots was quite low.  

Miraculously, the situation improved greatly for Tuesday-Friday when a second goalie coach materialized and some of the skater coach bandwidth was redirected toward the goalies.  The goalie shooting drills improved when they were taken over by some of the instructors and a couple of AAA kids from Mission that were skilled shooters.  I can only assume that the experience from Tues-Fri was what they intended for the whole week and they just didn’t have everything in place on the first day for this particular session.  While the situation and the quality of instruction improved greatly, the goalies still spent about half of their ice time in goal serving the battle camp shooting drills.  There is nothing wrong with participating in these kinds of shooter-focused drills, it just isn’t tailored for goalie development and is essentially the same kind of practice your goalie gets in his regular team practice.  Traditionally when general hockey camps try to attract goalies to participate, they offer a steep discount (usually 50% or more), but in this case the goalie camp was only $35 less than the skaters paid.  

One side note, I thought the Battle Camp for skaters looked great – focused on the small battles that occur all over the ice and geared toward getting skaters comfortable with a certain degree of body contact.  Bottom line was that there was some good goalie training over the course of the week and if I didn’t have a better option I would do this camp again, but it would not be my first choice.  

Upgraded from Not Recommended on Monday to Recommended with Reservations for Tuesday-Friday

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  1. Nice job - very well written, comprehensive and helpful. Haven't been to any of these camps other than a regular ProAmbitions Battle Camp at Shattuck for my goalie. Been to many other camps though. Haven't been to the two others you're considering either. Have had Mr. Whisler often and would definitely agree with your assessment of the camp. Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thank you! I am from Chicago, but live in Colorado now. I was thinking about spending a week with family next summer in Chicago and thought about putting my son in a goalie camp during that time. This is incredibly helpful!

  3. I have to say I was extremely disappointed in Proambitions. My son attended a battle camp and it was nothing but a glorified babysitting gig because it is an all day event for an entire week, 98% of parents worked or left and the 2-3 of us that were around were able to see exactly the amount of effort they put in with these kids. Unless your child is a self-motivator who just needs the practice during the off season, highly misinformed from their site. Only a couple coaches really tried to work with the kids and most of the assistant coaches blew whistles and pointed fingers for the most part, and if your child is a novice, it was more detrimental to their development because they rarely corrected improper positioning. When we attempted to speak with the manager and was told he would "recify" the situation, the next day it was a couple young coaches with bad attitude's and said that if we wanted personal instruction we should have signed up for private lessons. You can guess the rest of the story...we pulled our son from the camp and the end of day #2 and didn't get any refund, apology, etc. from ProAmbitions.

    1. Wow. Thanks for the info. Great insight. Was thinking about putting my very novice goalie at the camp but will look elsewhere. Also have sent two emails to them prior asking if it is for advanced or beginners and have not gotten a reply.

    2. We had a decent experience at ProAmbitions (similar to what the author described) and there was good instruction. Jason Zucker even came out one day and was an instructor but yes, it's not specific enough for goalies for us. I would go again but only if I couldn't find a specific goalie camp that was better.

  4. Unfortunately i did not find the anderson clinic as helpful. My son went to what was suppose to be a bantam and above clinic however there were several goalies there that were not bantam age yet. The camp advertised no more that 16 goalies on the ice yet this camp had 21 goalies. .. this does cut into the net time for the goalies. I am sure it is great meeting an NHL goalie...something son will always remember, however i just wish it was more for the goalies and what was advertised. We traveled a ways and paid hotel fees because we were told it was a serious camp and the goalies work hard. However we will take the great memory and chalk it up to doing more research on our camps. On a side note...if you live where the camp would be a worthy camp.

  5. I heard bandit camp in michigan is a serious one but I never went there but people who went rave about it.

  6. So thankful for your assessment! I know nothing about hockey and of course ended up with two children who play. This helps me out immensely. I would add to that: Next Level Hockey Camp (we attended in Vegas) was not recommended. Almost zero goalie instruction, kids ran wild, very little actual hockey instruction.