When the Arapahoe Youth Hockey League was looking to implement the American Development Model’s cross-ice games for its 125-or-so 8U players, the association brought parents to the South Suburban Family Sports Center, a facility the Warriors share with the two-time Stanley Cup champion Colorado Avalanche.
“We’re fortunate that the Avalanche use the same training facility,” said AYHL House Director Dave Lowry. “In the summer, they have a captains’ skate. Maybe 12 guys also show up from other NHL teams. When you see NHL players playing cross-ice, it’s almost a moot point regarding why you would want to do it any other way, because the best players in the world do this. Philosophically, it made sense to us that we implement the ADM because of the emphasis on skills plus playing in small spaces and working on give-and-goes.”
Lowry said cross-ice games fit right into the suburban Denver-based association’s overall philosophy.
“We’re very big on skills, and we’re not so big on systems because we’re looking to teach kids the flow of the game,” said Lowry, who oversees a house program that encompasses 26 teams and 425 boys from squirts through midgets. “We emphasize teaching the game from the standpoint of how it flows. We’re not trying to teach Xs and Os. It’s more about thinking.”
Lowry said the AYHL de-emphasizes systems until kids get older.
“We’re of the idea that everything starts with skating,” he said. “There’s an emphasis on skill development. We’re trying to get our coaches to understand that you can coach to win but also coach kids to learn the game. We try to be an association that emphasizes skills and the conceptual points of the game.”
Lowry and his coaches divide the house program boys into beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
“We don’t go strictly by age,” he said. “We’re located southeast of Denver and we get a lot of kids who are just beginning to play hockey. We look at a 7-year-old who is starting and we might put him in beginners to start.
“But we’re also very cognizant of the social aspect of kids. Is it (always) appropriate for a 5-year-old to be on a team with 7-year-olds? Not necessarily, because there may be a maturity difference as well as a physical difference.”
The Warriors program also includes 12 travel teams under the direction of Frank Xavier. Overall, 800-plus boys play either travel or house hockey with the Warriors.
When autumn arrives, the Warriors host the first of four annual tournaments, in this case the Early Bird Tournament, which is held in September. Approximately 850 boys competed on Tier II teams from peewees through midgets in last September’s tournament.
“It’s a way for coaches and players to play some games after six to 10 practices,” Lowry said. “People want to test themselves. It’s a great way to find out where you stand in relation to other teams.”
Another big benefit for the AYHL is the Arapahoe Warrior Booster Club. Among other things, the boosters use and maintain the league’s website; they provide practice jerseys plus helmet decals and numbers; they sponsor goalie sessions during the season; and, perhaps most importantly, they award scholarships up to $1,000.
“The scholarships are for individuals based on need,” explained Lowry. “They award what they feel is appropriate given a particular situation. The purpose (of the scholarships) is to cover the cost of playing hockey for a season.
“They also hold various fundraising activities like pancake breakfasts, and they make money from the Early Bird Tournament. They’re an integral part of the association.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.