Sports dreams usually take shape at a young age, and hockey is no exception.

These days, hockey players are starting as young as 4. When they reach high school they’ve already got 10-12 years invested in the sport and they’re starting to get a feel for what it takes to get to the next level—and ultimately the college and professional ranks.

This past weekend, dozens of players from all over the Midwest had a chance to get honest feedback on their game, and also get noticed by the right people when the Janesville Jets hosted their Midwest PreDraft Showcase at the Janesville Ice Arena.

According to Lennie Childs, associate head coach of the Jets, it was a busy three days of hockey in Janesville for camp attendees.

Sprinkled in among the scrimmages and Xs and Os was plenty of real talk about expectations.

“We want these guys to understand what it takes to succeed at this level,” Childs said during a break in the action on Saturday.

And that, Childs said, involves what they do both on and off the ice.

Childs had the attention of a group of about 20 players in the Jets locker room as he went through some video, peppering his talk with tips on both what to do when you have the puck and what do to without it.

“It’s about your work ethic and energy just as much as it’s about your skills with the stick,” Childs told the players. “Clap it up!”

The “Clap it up” drill, Childs said afterwards, helps keep players focused and not losing their attention span during chalk talk or film sessions.

Saturday afternoon, camp participants bundled up their gear, packed up their cars, and reflected on what they’d learned in Janesville.

Caden Barteline, 16, of Green Bay, plays prep hockey at Ashwaubenon High School. He’s one of those kids who first laced up his skates and picked up a stick at age 4.

He also toils for a club team, the Green Bay Bandits. He already has his eye on Wisconsin or Arizona State for college hockey.

But that’s about four years down the line for the college game. That gives him plenty of time to hone his game and get noticed by scouts.

That’s what the drive south to Janesville was all about.

Barteline said the best part of the camp for him was the high level of competition in the scrimmages.

“It was even better than I was expecting,” Barteline said.

And while Barteline appreciated the skills instruction as well, he said he’ll take the real talk about what it takes to succeed at a higher level to heart as he continues his youth hockey career in pursuit of his ultimate goal of a college scholarship.

That was also what brought Ryan Hacker to Janesville from his home in the northwest Chicago suburbs.

A 16-year-old goaltender, Hacker said the 1-on-1 instruction he found in several specific goalie sessions were just what he was looking for.

And like Barteline, Hacker found the level of competition at the camp exceeded his already high expectations.

Especially the intensity on the ice.

“It was even more physical than I was expecting,” Hacker said. “A big step up from the club level.”

Similar camps are slated for July 1-3 in Minnesota and 8-10 in Chicago.

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