A new kind of school
Hockey, ministry unite at Liberty University Hockey School
The month of July has plenty of sounds — like the sound of the ocean and the sound of laughter. But this July, the sound of skates cutting ice and hockey sticks slapping pucks will be heard at the Liberty University Christian Hockey School (LU-CHS), where hockey and the love of Christ come together.
The Christian-based camp will take place from July 24 to July 28 according to camp director Jeff Boettger, who is also the associate director at the LaHaye Ice Center and Liberty’s D1 assistant men’s hockey coach. Boettger said that last year there were more than 100 campers who came to the camp, ranging from ages 7 to 18.
LU-CHS is both a day camp and a residential camp. Females can participate as day campers, but according to Boettger, it is targeted more towards boys. The residential campers stay in the dorms on Liberty’s campus and their activities take place mostly at the LaHaye Ice Center.
The campers are split into three different groups, depending primarily on age, and they spend a majority of their day practicing on the ice, developing skills and conditioning off of the ice, participating in activities and going to an afternoon chapel service.
The camp is staffed with counselors on a 10-to-1 ratio, approximately, as well as on-ice instructors, the chaplains, a visiting nurse and an instructor for the off-ice conditioning, Boettger said.
Boettger said that although hockey is often looked at as a rough sport that is filled with a variety of tough characters, the LU-CHS can give it a positive light by having a Christ-centered focus.
“We want to build relationships, get these kids exposed and see the Christian kids grow,” Boettger said. “(We want them to) know they can be athletes in a competitive, perceptively violent sport, but maintain integrity with their faith.”
According to Boettger, there are two different chapel services, one for kids ages 12 and younger and one for teenagers. David Semenyna, an assistant coach for Liberty’s D2 hockey team who will be counseling for his third year, said it is the most prevalent way that the campers experience the spiritual aspect of the camp. However, Boettger also said that the counselors reach out to the kids on more of an individual basis through their counselor groups and even just when they are hanging out and doing different activities.
“That might be a time where the kids are asking questions,” Boettger said. “So (the counselors) can speak into their lives or share their own story at some point. We encourage them to take that opportunity.”
The counselors do work to build relationships with the campers. They love getting to see the different personalities of the campers, according to Mike Binnie, goalie coach for Liberty’s D1 hockey team. He said a lot of the kids will come back multiple summers, which allows the staff to get to know the campers and have the opportunity to keep in contact with some of them over their hockey seasons. Semenyna said he has even begun giving private lessons to some of the campers.
“When the kids get there … you always get excited to start the week off,” Binnie said. “You can kind of see how the kids progress throughout the five days that they’re on the ice. They’re on the ice a lot and they do improve a lot, and that’s a rewarding thing.”
Boettger also said that it was a very rewarding experience. Although he said it can be stressful for him at times, he has fun getting to go on the ice and coach the campers.
“When you’re the organizer you don’t always see the growth as far as the spiritual side of things because you’re not with the campers as much,” Boettger said. “ It’s giving them an opportunity to seek it out a little bit more and in a context they enjoy. When they see other people, even guys that they look up to like Liberty hockey players, being part of that and sharing their stories.”
Registration for LU-CHS is currently open and the Early Bird deadline is April 15. LU-CHS is also looking for 12-15 male student athletes to serve as counselors from any sport who have a heart for kids and for ministry.
More information on the camp can be found on the Liberty University hockey team’s website or at LaHayeIceCenter.com.