Rand McNally and USA Today selected Glenwood Springs, Colo., as the most fun town in America. It certainly lives up to the hype each December when hundreds of hockey players from throughout Colorado’s mountain communities descend on the town of 10,000 for its annual youth jamboree.
This year’s event played out among frigid temperatures on Glenwood Springs’ single ice sheet, a roofed open-air rink offering spectacular mountain views, but the constant-motion pace kept kids warm. More than 175 mites attended the event, which consisted of simultaneous cross-ice games in the morning and late afternoon sandwiched around mid-day American Development Model on-ice clinics for 8U and 10U players.
“Every kid gets five games, the ADM clinic and big smiles,” said Timothy “T.K.” Kwiatkowski, director of hockey for the Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey Association. “It’s a much more efficient way to use the ice, plus it keeps it fun for all the kids. It’s a great event.”
USA Hockey representatives Ken Martel, technical director of the ADM, and Ty Hennes, ADM regional manager, led the clinics, which made a favorable impression on parents, coaches and kids alike.
“One of my 8U players came off the ice and told his mom, ‘They were the best coaches ever,’ in that quintessential seven-year-old way,” said Kwiatkowski, a Minnesota native involved with the Glenwood Springs hockey program since 2001. “We were pleased to have the opportunity to work with some of USA Hockey’s finest.”
Building Hockey in Glenwood Springs
The annual jamboree is a showcase event for Glenwood Springs, bringing nearly 200 families into the community for a day of fast-paced fun, skill development and competition. It draws players from Aspen, Vail, Eagle, Breckenridge, Steamboat Springs, Craig and Grand Junction in addition to the hosts.
“The organizers are fantastic,” said Kwiatkowski. “And the whole community gets involved.”
As a result, it’s become a flagship event for the Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey Association, a group comprised of parents, volunteer coaches and directors that keep things moving forward, according to Kwiatkowski.
“Being a smaller community, it’s huge to have a strong base of volunteers,” he said. “And our coaches have been fantastic, which is instrumental to any association’s success.”
Another component of the association’s success has been its adoption of the ADM.
“We started implementing the ADM when USA Hockey rolled it out, but it was an evolution,” said Kwiatkowski. “It was difficult to get some of our squirt coaches on board at first, but now it’s fully engrained. When we adopted it full-on, our retention rates started climbing.”
Soon the benefits were becoming self-evident in both the players’ skill development and their smiles.
“The ADM has a great fun factor for the kids and it provides age-appropriate training, which are what I see as the two biggest assets,” said Kwiatkowski. “By creating the ADM, USA Hockey has really positioned American hockey for success, and I love the direction it’s going.”