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Pioneers of Westwood girls’ program now excelling at higher levels

01/28/2014, 12:45pm MST
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

The senior class has stuck together to turn the Westwood High School girls’ hockey team into a state title contender in Massachusetts.

Ice hockey was not always so easy for the group, however.

They endured the growing pains of starting a girls’ program virtually from scratch, paving the way for what is now a thriving program in the Westwood Youth Hockey Association. A decade ago, girls were a very small part of the Westwood Youth Hockey Association, fitting in among the boys who dominated the program. Commitment from parents of girls, administrators of the program and the girls themselves all combined to start the process of changing that outlook.

Dave Witherell, the current Westwood Youth Hockey Association girls’ director, pointed to former association president David Horsfall and former girls’ director David Burke as two of the early leaders in the program’s growth.

While there are parents and other leaders who deserve credit, Horsfall and Burke, who are both among that group, believe the perseverance of the early players is worthy of appreciation. Horsfall and Burke each have daughters who played through the program’s early stages.

The first Westwood girls’ team competed on the Under-12 level, although it included a group of 8-year-olds. The players went winless in their first season, but enthusiastically came back for more. More and more players continued to join them each season.

“It was not easy in the beginning,” said Burke, whose daughter Siobhan eventually switched to playing goalie and is now one of the top goalies statistically in Massachusetts high school hockey. “But, they stuck with it. They gave opportunity to those who followed.

“A lot of them still volunteer. Every week, little girls come to learn to skate and they are instructed by girls' players who they can look to as role models.”

Siobhan Burke has followed Horsfall’s daughter Katie as captain at Westwood High, which went to the state semifinals the last two seasons and is off to a strong start this season as it enjoys the most successful stretch in school history.

Katie Horsfall, a defenseman, has moved on to Connecticut to play prep school hockey at Kent in her senior year. Her father said he still clearly remembers her first goal, “and it was not in the first season.” There were not many to go around in the program's first year.

When Westwood’s board of directors decided to try to build a girls’ hockey program, it fully committed to giving the teams a chance to grow.

Prior to starting girls’ travel teams, Westwood had just about 15 girls in its house leagues and only three girls playing on the 12-15 travel teams the association offered each year.

“Our daughters were in the cross-ice program,” Burke said. “They liked hockey, but when you looked ahead at what travel had to offer, we had three girls playing. It was a good fit for those three girls, but my daughter looked at it as boys-dominated teams. She wanted to play with girls.”

Other girls and parents felt the same way. The daughters wanted to learn the sport while not missing out on the social aspects of being on a girls’ team.

An original group of 18 interested girls started the process that has grown into Westwood putting 5-6 girls’ travel teams on the ice each season. Westwood has a U10 team, two U12s and two U14s this season in addition to a half-season U19 team that plays prior to the start of high school hockey.

“We had the support of the youth hockey program,” Burke said. “In 2003, girls’ hockey was right on the verge, but it was not where it is now.”

When new programs are added, issues like demands on ice team have to be discussed.

“What ended up happening was real important,” Horsfall said. “All the way through, we never treated the girls’ program as girls. We treated it as another travel team. … They got the same support of the other travel programs.”

That spirit continued even as Westwood began the process of catching up to other associations that had started girls’ programs earlier.

“We knew there would be growing pains,” Burke said. “There were not many wins, but we had to start somewhere.

“The kids and the parents recognized that.”

Burke sees the dividends in the current strength of the Westwood Youth program and when he watches his daughter’s high school team put together winning streaks.

“It’s certainly fair to say some of these kids would not be playing hockey now if they had not been afforded a chance to play then,” Burke said. “Siobhan became a goalie at 10. There’s no doubt that would not have happened.”

Burke also credits the Middlesex Yankee Conference Girls’ Hockey League, which Westwood joined a few years after starting its girls’ teams, with helping the growth. The conference has enough teams at each age group to split according to skill level and keep games competitive, another key to participation levels growing.

“We’ve had some teams that won the middle level and others that came in last on the top level, but the games have always stayed competitive and the participation levels have stayed high,” he said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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As we enter the 2015-16 registration season for officials, I want to give an update of what changes to expect this season.

The Officials Section has been busy since the 2015 Winter Meeting, working on implementing the registration changes that were discussed and voted on by the district referees-in-chief, along with refining the testing and online seminar programs.

REGISTRATION INFORMATION
For 2015-16, there will be an informational video available before an official registers with USA Hockey outlining the requirements and commitment that an individual will need to fulfill in order to complete their registration.

REGISTRATION PROCESS

Next, and a very important change, starting with this season, in order to register for a seminar, an official will have to first register as an official (online) with USA Hockey in order to gain access to the online program to register for a seminar.

This change was due to a number of individuals who would never register as an official with USA Hockey and then ‘no show’ to the seminar that they registered for, which frequently led to other registered officials being denied attendance at that seminar because the seating capacity had already been reached.

This change will provide more incentive for every individual who registers as an official -- and registers for a seminar -- to attend that seminar and complete the registration requirements.

EXAM PROCESS
The open-book testing process has also been modified for the coming season. What hasn’t changed is that a Level 1 official will still have to answer the first 50 questions, while Level 2, 3 & 4 officials will have to answer 100 questions. However, the passing score for a Level 2 official has been modified to 80 from 85. All other passing scores remain the same as last year. Those minimum passing scores are 35 for a Level 1 official and 90 for Levels 3 and 4.

While an official is taking the open-book exam, there will be immediate feedback provided after each answer is submitted. If the question was answered incorrectly, the rule reference for that missed question will be given with the appropriate rule book language.

After completing all of the required questions, a summary will be sent of all incorrect responses with their rule references. If a passing score is obtained, then the open-book exam requirement will be complete.

If the result is a failing score, after the seven-day waiting period has passed, the official will only have to retake those questions that were incorrectly answered on their first open-book exam. The retake questions will be based on the same rule reference as the originally missed questions, but will cover a different aspect of the rule.

Once all of the retake questions are answered, the number of correctly answered retake questions will be added to the original test score to hopefully obtain a passing grade. As a reminder, there is no third attempt to pass the open-book exam.

IN-CLASS SEMINARS & ONLINE EDUCATION UPDATES
During the winter meeting, the Officials Section spent considerable time discussing seminar program feedback, and in particular, the online modules. All feedback was taken seriously and an action plan was discussed and adopted.


Two work groups were established to address the new classroom curriculums and to improve the online video modules. Both were comprised of grassroots members who could bring a grassroots perspective to their work. Both groups have completed their work and their recommendations have been adopted. The new shortened classroom curriculums have been distributed for application to this coming seminar season and the online modules are being re-engineered with improved formatting, better sequencing, animation replacing some video clips and reduction of music and voice-overs to allow the viewer to better focus on the presented material.

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This completion requirement was put in place by the District RICs to encourage all officials to complete their registration as early as possible and to provide continuity in the overall seminar education process.

SUMMARY
As a reminder, to complete an official’s registration an applicant must:

  • Register online with USA Hockey
  • Register and attend a classroom seminar (reduced attendance times depending on registration level)
  • Complete the required and elective online training modules within the required time frame
  • Pass the open-book exam at their registration level
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  • Complete their online USA Hockey SafeSport training at the end of every two-year cycle

 

Work will continue on improving our educational programs, and as always, we will continue actively listening to your constructive feedback. Without your involvement and support as a community, we cannot continue moving forward.  Acknowledging that improvements were needed was only one step in the process.  Implementing those changes in a way that meets the needs of our officiating community is the next step and we’re excited to be taking that step.

Have a great 2015-16 season and as always, skate hard and have fun when you’re on the ice.

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