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Omaha Lady Junior Lancers Take Varied Approach to Expansion

02/13/2014, 5:15pm EST
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

Recruiting never takes a holiday with the growing Omaha Lady Junior Lancers. In fact, the program’s leaders have used holidays — both civilian and hockey — to help spread the word as they continue to expand in the Lady Junior Lancers’ fourth year.

“When it’s International Girls’ Hockey Day or when we’ve had Try Hockey for Free events, we try to invite as many girls as we can,” Lady Junior Lancers team manager Pam Mass said. “In the early years, we didn’t really have enough girls dropping in.”

The Nebraska association has used posters, flyers, social media and other methods to spread the word. The interactions that come along with holidays add opportunities to spread the word.

“We invite as many girls as we can to skate with us and come see what it’s like,” Mass said. “We use various different things. We have flyers that families can print out to give to kids at school.

“In February, we’ve done Valentine’s cards. At Halloween, we’ve had cards for trick-or-treaters.”

As more girls try hockey, more register, expanding the membership and strengthening the program for those already involved by making girls’ teams more viable.

Mass said there are now between 60 and 70 girls in the entire Omaha program. A few girls at the youngest levels play on co-ed teams in house leagues, but most are on the all-girls Lady Junior Lancers teams.

The Lady Junior Lancers added new teams this year at the oldest and youngest levels. There is now a 10-and-under girls’ team along with a varsity girls’ team for players 19-and-under and a junior varsity team designed to feed the varsity program. All have been added to what was simply a 12-and-under girls team with some players as young as age 9.

“We have them coming out of the woodwork at both ends of the age bracket, which is wonderful,” Mass said.

The program takes advantage of five sheets of ice spanning three facilities to find room for the additional teams.

The Lady Junior Lancers evolved out of a situation where girls’ players were losing interest because of the lack of specific opportunities.

“We had enough girls playing in the boys’ program who were aging into peewees,” Mass said. “They were at that point where they didn’t really want to play any more because it was getting rougher playing with the boys.

“We have a couple of coaches, who were also parents who had girls, who were willing to take it up and get the girls’ program going strong.”

The Lady Junior Lancers fill their schedule by playing against younger boys in their house league and also traveling to Minnesota three or four times each season — something that continues now for both the 12U and 10U teams — to play in girls’ tournaments against their own age group.

The same routine continued last year when a group of players who outgrew the 12U squad stuck together to play against peewee boys’ teams in the house league.

Those girls continued to play and now form the core of the 15U JV girls’ team. The JV girls play some friendship games in the Bantam House League and join the varsity playing in the Heartland League in about a half-dozen tournaments a season.

The families and girls already in the program have welcomed newcomers. Equipment donations and rentals plus a scholarship program have helped control costs for those trying the sport for the first time.

“We try to make sure, if it’s a girl donating equipment, that we give the equipment to another girl to keep growing the sport,” Mass said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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