| Laura Jones
Looking at leaping into hockey prep school? The Hockey Mommy interviewed Melissa St John to get her views and opinions.
First, let me say that the idea of prep school snuck up on me and my family of two AA and AAA players. If you are not there yet, I understand, but you may want to read anyway. It will be here before you know it.
HM: I would like to ask you some questions about how to get started, what to expect, and your expert hockey mommy experience.
MSJ: I am so excited you asked me to do this, I hope I can be a blessing to other Hockey Moms around the country...so excited..how does my hair look?
HM: You’re not on video, Melissa...
HM: So, how did you find the right school for you?
MSJ: Some factors to consider are location, class sizes and financial aid. For us, a smaller school with a higher percentage of boarding students made sense. We were very nervous about sending a 14 year old child 680 miles from home for 8 months of the year. We struck huge schools from the list, because we were concerned that our son would be overwhelmed. Academics were very important as well. When choosing a school for your child, please consider whether you would want your child at that school even if s/he stopped playing hockey.
HM: What were your visits and tours like?
MSJ: We were impressed with the schools themselves, many of which looked like very nice college campuses. You should plan on visiting schools and finding the time to meet with the coach and ask any questions you have about the team. If hockey is your top priority, you will want a written promise from your coach that your child will get a spot on the team. We also have friends whose sons were on the roster but never got ice time – talk about that possibility with the coaching team.
HM: Any advice on the cost of prep schools?
MSJ: Our son is a very good hockey player but not an exceptional hockey player; he wasn’t going to be recruited to a school or receive a scholarship. Prep school can be expensive, and families researching schools can often be scared off by the sticker price. Most prep schools have sliding scales for tuition and generous financial aid programs, ask the admissions department!
HM: What was hockey season like?
MSJ: With prep school, your athlete's schedule is going to change. To supplement the prep hockey season, your child will play either split season with a local team, or – as we did for our son – you will sign up for a prep school 4v4 league.
HM: What was your experience with the prep school league?
MSJ: The benefit of the 4v4 league was that transportation was provided. This may not sound like a huge thing, but for split season I would find myself begging for rides for our child with local parents whom we’d never met. Or brace myself for pricey car services. My son was called and asked to try out for a team he really wanted on a holiday weekend. Getting him to the tryout would have meant a $300 car service if a classmate hadn’t graciously offered to drive him. Uber can also be a gamble with younger students, so try to find a family or friend to start carpooling.
HM: What did your son’s practice schedule look like?
MSJ: With on-campus rinks, players can hop on the ice for individual workouts during a free period. Our son was able to text his coach at almost any time of day and ask to be let into the rink to practice. He had a five-minute walk from the dorm to the rink, and was able to get a lot of practice time in.
HM: What was all this change like for you and your family?
MSJ: I didn't miss the constant travel and wear on our vehicles, to be honest. But, not having my child, his friends, or my fellow hockey moms around was very lonely that first year. That loneliness was more profound than I expected and is something to prepare yourself for. What helped was watching the broadcast games as a family. I’d also recommend connecting with other prep school moms who are feeling the same way and starting a support group.
HM: So… was it all worth it?
MSJ: Yes! Now that my son is a rising senior, he has experienced many different transitions. A great roommate, a falling out, disciplinary measures, incredibly close friendships, and an unparalleled academic experience which has included meeting bestselling authors, heads of state, a Holocaust Survivor… experiences that most people never have, at any age, much less as high school students. This was a great opportunity for our son.
HM: What would you tell other hockey moms thinking about prep school for their family?
MSJ: Choosing a prep school allowed our son to mature, grow, and make personal connections that will serve him for the rest of his life. The friendships he formed, the lessons he learned, and the experiences he had are invaluable. We would make the same choice again.
HM: Thank you Melissa. It was such a joy getting to talk to you and learn about the prep school process!
So, should you send your child to a prep school? Whether or not it’s the right choice is going to depend on your situation and your child. For Melissa, it was a way for her son to get new experiences and develop as a student and an athlete. For others, it may not be the right fit. Only you can decide if prep school is right for your family.