Hockey camps develop players athletically and spiritually both on and off the ice
Liberty University’s Summer Hockey Camps for residential and day campers wrapped up in June and July at the LaHaye Ice Center, with players of all ages and skill levels sharpening their games through three days of on- and off-ice sessions.
Camps ranged from a co-ed session for players under the ages of 8 (mite), 10 (squirt), and 12 (pee wee) to a boys bantam camp for players 14-and-under and a development camp for 16-and-under boys, and concluded with a camp for girls ages 16-and-younger.
“It’s just a great atmosphere for a youth hockey camp, obviously with the facilities we have here in the rink, it’s just so cool to skate out there,” said rising graduate Flames ACHA Division I forward Matt Bartel, who served as a camp counselor. “I get a kick out of it every time I’m out there (so) I can’t imagine what these kids think of it.”
“A lot of the kids just love being here at Liberty,” added Brett Gammer, a senior teammate of Bartel’s who also served as a residential counselor. “Some of them have a future goal and aspiration of playing here one day or coming to school here some day and they love getting shown around campus and seeing all of the facilities we have to offer.”
“We took the kids over to the NCAA swimming area (the Liberty Natatorium) as well as to the (Liberty) Indoor Football (Practice Facility),” Flames rising junior forward Kris Bladen added. “They were pretty amazed by that and they had fun throwing the football around and playing soccer, all sorts of fun games. Even the on-ice instruction, we had all of our coaches here working with them, some skill development, some drills, and some of our current players were able to help out on the ice and to lead these kids, No. 1, to the Lord and then to become better hockey players.”
Gammer said the sport is booming among all ages in the Lynchburg, Va., area, which is not typically known as a hockey hotbed.
“In Virginia, there’s a lot of room for growth, but in just my short time being at Liberty here, the following continues to grow and Virginia’s really starting to love hockey, and it’s super cool to see, especially on campus here,” Gammer said. “A ton of the students love it and you see these campers, they come in and they’re on-fire for hockey and we get to grow that passion and grow them as athletes all-around. Obviously, a huge thing for us is to grow them closer to God, spiritually, and we get to work on that as well.”
Videos by Kylee Lilge and Patrick Strawn/Club Sports Director of Video & Media