I attended the Learn to Play Development Camp in ‘Sunny Vierumaki’, Finland, last week. Our mentors and class mates preferred to call it Play to Learn, as this is exactly what they do! The idea is let the kids, through cross ice games and fun exercises, learn about the fantastic sport of ice hockey.
I think my motto for the week was “Let them be” – quoted by a very wise LTP coach from Sweden.
On the first day we arrived and registered and we then went to the opening ceremony where more than 400 participants where there to attend the camp. Afterwards we met with our LTP mentors and headed off to the classroom. There we were separated into groups and learned that throughout the week we would be working with 55 kids on and off the ice between the ages of 6 and 10 years old. All the kids were Finnish and had no English – this was going to be a challenge, but we were all eager to start! Tired from travelling we decided to pop down to the beautiful lake for a quick dip! That certainly woke us up!
On Sunday our class took part in an off-ice session. There we were shown examples of fun drills and games we could do with the kids (or any age for that matter, the inner child in all of us came out to play that day!) In the afternoon we headed back to the class room for a feedback session and found out what groups were taking the off-ice and on ice trainings for the rest of the week. Every morning we had an on ice session at which our mentors provided us with examples of games and exercises to do with the kids, again the ‘big kids’ were out to play and it got pretty competitive between us!
We learned that Monday and Tuesday were our group days to take the off-ice and on ice sessions. A lot of planning and practice went into both sessions and we did very well. The kids thoroughly enjoyed both sessions and so did we. The language barrier did not cause any problems between us or the kids, they were shown a quick example of what they had to do and picked it up pretty quickly. While on the ice the other groups had time utilisation statistics to do, like how long did a player actually skate with the puck, how many minutes did a player skate backwards etc. We learned that these stats are very important and need to be thought about before planning any LTP session. The rest of the week our group did time utilisations, evaluations and got snacks ready for the kids before the camp ended for the day. Every evening after the kids left the camp we went back to our classroom and had more feedback and evaluation sessions.
On our second last day of the camp all the groups in our class had to come together to organise a tournament for the kids on the Saturday. There was a lot of planning and organisation involved but we all came together as a team and the tournament was a fantastic success. The kids and parents were delighted and everybody went home happy.
What an experience! I learned so much about the sport of ice hockey and met some amazing people along the way. Being on the ice every day, sometimes twice a day was the greatest feeling ever and made me realise how much I miss the sport and the Dundalk Ice Dome. I did not want to come home and was quite sad leaving the ‘sunny Vierumaki’ camp.
Why do I keep referring to the camp as ‘Sunny Vierumaki’? Well the sun does not go down at all, even at night time!! Luckily I had my eye mask otherwise I wasn’t getting any sleep!
The Vierumaki experience is something I will never forget.