A little primer on why springs camps exist:
Spring camps act as a way for Junior A teams to cast a wide net for scouting. Junior A teams have smaller staffs, so a spring camp lets them evaluate all talent equally at once.
The spring roundup shakes out the better half of players who attend and these players are invited back in the fall. Fall camps tend to be smaller as coaches need to get their roster down and start preparing for the season.
Spring camps also act partly as a fundraiser.
Choosing your Junior A camp to attend in the spring is going to come down to a variety of factors:
- Team’s Interest in the Player
- Player’s Interest in the Team
You really have to ask yourself how far you want to travel just for a spring camp when your son is only 15. There really is no point in driving 20 hours just for the opportunity to do it all again in the fall… especially when he has no chance of making the team that year.
Remember that players can’t play Junior A out-of-province (or country) until they are 18. If an OOP team seriously wants your son, they will pick up the phone and call him at 17. It won’t hurt going out of province at 15, but you’re just a spec on their radar if you do. The best AAA players always get found by 17.
Within the province, it’s a different story. Assuming you aren’t bound to your hometown by league rules, it may be worth making a little drive to another town. On the other hand, depending on your son’s goals, you may want to invest real travel into your Major Junior camp and stick close to home for Junior A. (Or you can live in Ontario and be close to everything!)
When I was 14 (and 15), my Mom drove me 15 hours to WHL camp, but we stuck right near home for Junior A. The home Junior A team picked me up anyway. At that age, I knew that my scholarship chances were about the same anywhere in the Sask. junior league, my home league, so why not play close to home if it came to playing Junior A? (I wanted to play WHL.)
I shunned the spring camp offers from B.C., Alberta and Manitoba at this age. I didn’t see the point in driving 15 hours for a Junior A camp when I couldn’t play for that team for three years. That, and my parents didn’t want to drive halfway across the country again for the WHL camp that fall.
“Choose one, boy.” – Dad
Most Junior A spring camps will cost you some pocket change. They vary from $50 to $300 dollars depending where you are at. Some come with a guarantee of games, most don’t. The team doesn’t have to guarantee you anything—this isn’t minor hockey. Registration fees shouldn’t play into your decision. You pay them pretty much everywhere you go.
Team’s Interest in the Player
I’d definitely pay closer attention to a team that shows interest in your son. If a team talks to your son after a game, calls him or approaches you, it’s a good sign that they have real interest. Your son isn’t just one of hundreds receiving letters in the mail.
On the other hand, you have to balance that out against your son’s age and how far you’re willing to travel. If I’m an American, and the team contacting my son is hours and hours away, I may not want to make that trip if my son is only 15.
However, if I am 17 and the coach is talking about specifics—I list those in my book—I’d pay extra attention to that. Remember, most “open spots” in the fall camp have been guaranteed in the spring.
If a team showing interest is close enough that you’ll make the trip, and you know your son is too young to make the team, you still may want to go anyway. It’s a chance to get noticed and you want to get in that pipeline. The experience of going to a junior camp is invaluable too.
Most spring camps are, basically, open tryouts. Bring your cash, grab a jersey. Go to the team who shows genuine interest on top of the form letters, especially when you are a year or two away from making the team. If they are searching for you and you like them, that’s a match.
Player’s Interest in the Team
The last factor is where your son wants to play. Junior A is pretty cool in that you can jump provinces to different leagues and in some parts of the country you can choose which camps to attend, i.e. there is no draft.
If your son has his heart set on making a certain team, there may be no better time to feel out the organization and get their attention than in spring camp. It wouldn’t hurt to talk to the team before attending if you’re making a real run at it. Make sure to check out our Training Camp Invite Formula.
I think a last thing worth noting is that words and promises do not matter if your son does not have a good season of AAA and good fall camp. Everything he does up till that point can be erased if he doesn’t perform during those critical times when teams are watching. You have to keep impressing along the way.
Have questions? Put them in the comment box below and I’ll answer them.
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