Kids with T-shirts and shorts could be seen last week heading into the arena carrying hockey equipment. The reason: the Black Elk Hockey camp was in full swing at the Ponoka Culture and Recreation Complex.
Young boys and girls had almost an entire week to stretch unused muscles and hone their hockey skills. Through a series of intense classes, attendees learned power skating and hockey skills.
Dryland training also continued throughout the week with soccer, ball hockey, and for chalk talk that kept kids thinking about the game. For some parents it meant their kids were active and learning about all aspects of the sport.
“I keep coming back for the schedule. They keep kids busy all day long, and for the instructors,” said Tammy Glague, mother of two from Clive.
That and her kids enjoy returning each year because they enjoy it. “I want them to have the skills, but I want them to have fun.”
She feels the value comes in how Black Elk presents its classes as well as some of the additional clinics they offer such as defense, shooting and checking.
Returning for a second year was Bobby-Jo Hekob, of Cranbrook, B.C. She uses the camp as a chance to visit family and friends and for what her child gets out of it.
“We chose this camp for the value. The bang for your buck,” explained Hekob.
She was unaware of any other camps that offer eight hours of instruction per day.
Director Gord Jones said their season started July 21 in Bonnyville and the camp travels from Okotoks to Fort McMurray to Grande Prairie. He feels the rapport his instructors have with the hockey students is what separates them from other camps. “That’s the key to what we do here…what sets us aside is the instruction kids receive.”
“The younger the player, the more the improvement,” stated Jones.
Despite attendance from areas around central Alberta, Jones’ hope is to see more kids from Ponoka take advantage of their programs. “We’d like to see more Ponoka residents.”
An instructor for Black Elk for the last seven years, Andrew Owsiak looks forward to each camp they teach to see returning students and their advancements compared to last year and freedom in how he teaches. “I have a lot more freedom to work on my own practice plans.”
Fourteen-year-old Cam Shurek from Sherwood Park has been coming for the last six years. He appreciates the time back on the ice. “The best part is it prepares me for the year.”
He advises putting the time and energy into classes to get the most out of what the camp offers. “Work your hardest and go into the clinics that you think will help you the most.”
For Ponoka’s Samuel Neath, 11, who returned for his fourth year his hope is get better each year. “I like hockey so I like shooting and skating.”
It might be tough work, but that does not stop him. “It’s pretty fun while you’re working hard.”
The camp ran from Aug. 18 to 24 after which they hosted a bantam/midget 3 on 3 camp from Aug. 24 to 27.