page contents
skip navigation

Junior Falcons Help Girls Soar to New Heights in New England

04/29/2014, 10:45am MDT
By Tom Robinson - Special to USAHockey.com

The New England Junior Falcons have gone from one split-season girls’ team to 100 girls on the program’s six travel teams in just five years.

There is no end in sight for that growth.

Falcons girls’ director Carol Lessard said the Enfield, Conn.-based program planned to conduct tryouts in late April with the goal of filling 10 teams for the 2014-15 season.

Lessard has worked in an administrative role at the Enfield Twin Rinks and served as the Falcons girls’ director for the five-year growth period. She points to two primary reasons for the increased interest in playing for the association based in the northwest part of the state on the Massachusetts border.

First, the Falcons have succeeded in making themselves attractive both to players who want to use the program as a steppingstone to the many prominent prep school programs in the region as well as those players who want the Falcons to be their main hockey focus.

Second, under the guidance of Tom O’Connor, one of the team’s owners, the Falcons have built a strong coaching staff that attracts interested players and families.

“We’re pleased with our numbers,” Lessard said. “I think one of the things we do well is that several of our players through the years have attended prep schools, and I think part of the reason is the affiliation with our program. We work with the prep schools.”

Many of the high school/prep school players in New England compete in half-season leagues before their school season starts.

The Falcons had a split-season team on the Under-19 level and a full-season team on the U16 level this season. They will enter into tryouts looking to see if they can field split- and full-season teams on both of those higher age levels for 2014-15.

“Not all of our skaters attend prep school or wish to attend prep school,” Lessard said. “We always provide a high-level team for the girls who play for us full-season as well. We’re not here just to fill the prep schools, but some of our girls have educational options that they would not have had if they did not skate for our program.

“But we have other girls who have gone on to be very successful who also stayed here and played for our local high schools or our U19 teams.”

Lessard said the concentration on recruiting and keeping quality coaches has also played a key role in helping the Falcons keep players in the program as they progress through the age groups. The team competes in the Massachusetts district and the Massachusetts state tournament because the bulk of its roster comes from that state.

While they draw from around western Massachusetts and Connecticut, the Falcons also attract players from Vermont and New Hampshire who travel in to Enfield to be part of the teams.

The New England Girls’ Hockey League helps in the process with a large membership and its ability to provide options for keeping teams paired in divisions that make games competitive.

The list of alumni from the Junior Falcons girls’ team includes Kacey Bellamy, who went on to play for the Berkshire School, the University of New Hampshire and most recently the 2014 U.S. Olympic Team that won a silver medal in Sochi, Russia.

When members of the Olympic women’s team were given the opportunity to select youth hockey organizations to receive 12 sets of OneGoal starter equipment as a donation, Bellamy chose The Junior Falcons program.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

Recent Youth Hockey News

Popular Articles & Features

Three ways to beat burnout

11/28/2016, 9:45pm MST
By Dave Pond

According to NHL metrics, the average hockey shift lasts somewhere between 45 and 55 seconds. There’s inherent beauty and fluidity to line changes, as skaters come on and off the ice, looking to recharge after going full throttle for their teams.

Meanwhile, your NHL officiating peers are giving their all, too – regularly logging 4-5 miles a game. Those totals are even greater at your level, where you and your colleagues officiate multiple games a day, several times per week, on a seemingly never-ending calendar.

And, although we want to perform our best every game, everyone has both good days and bad – players and officials alike. To learn more about keeping burnout at bay, we went to the experts: longtime amateur hockey scheduler Larry Carrington and former NHL official Mark Faucette.

“There is so much more to officiating than meets the eye,” said Faucette, a 17-year NHL veteran. “It may look easy from the stands, but to maintain total control of a game along with the stress, slumps, supervisors, travel, and fitness regimen takes a very special kind of person.”

Get in shape (and stay there)
We all think we’re in “pretty good” shape, but the reality is, officials must be top athletes and in great condition – even at the youngest levels.

“Conditioning is very important—the deeper into the season, the more important it is,” Carrington said. “Burnout happens physically, mentally, and emotionally. An official who is in good condition will experience less physical burnout, and that will in turn help with the emotional and mental burnout.”

Faucette stresses following a workout routine that maxes yourself at least every other day. Neither player or official should plan to use games as a vehicle toward better physical fitness.

“Where we used to go to camp to get into shape, officials today are on summer conditioning regimens and are tested as soon as they come to camp,” he said. “Taking care of your body is a total focus for the good official.

“The players are so much stronger and faster now, so it’s imperative the officials keep the same pace.”

Find balance
No, not balance on your skates (that’s a given). Rather, make sure to keep the big picture in mind, to work a manageable schedule that includes everything that’s important to you – family, friends, and time away from the rink.

Although it makes Carrington’s job as an assignor more difficult, he said it pays off in the long run.

“I encourage officials to take at least one weekend off to get away from hockey,” he said. “I certainly don't want to lose their services for a week, but the invigoration that it usually provides makes them a much more valuable asset over the course of the season.”

That’s huge in an industry where both mental and physical fatigue are commonplace.

“Every official runs into slumps, just as players do,” Faucette said. “You spend numerous hours alone as an official, and when things are not going good, where everything is negative, it can cause you duress.

“Positive thoughts and self-evaluations speed up recovery,” he continued. “So, instead of telling yourself, ‘I wonder what bad thing will happen tonight?’ say ‘I’m ready for anything – bring it on!’”

Have fun
It’s No. 3 here, but should be No. 1 on your to-do list.

“I realize the officials are all trying hard, and mistakes are part of any sport by any participant,” said Faucette, who currently serves as supervisor of officials for USA Hockey, the NAHL director of player safety and the SPHL director of officiating. “That being said, the joy I get out of seeing a young official start out at ground level and making the big time one day is immeasurable.”

For most of you reading this, the “big time” might not be the end goal (and that’s OK). But wherever you are, there’s experience you’ve gained, as well as that to come – which both point back to why you first got involved in this great sport.

As an assignor, Carrington tries to get out of the office as much as he can and intentionally varies the schedules of his officials to help keep things fresh. He also encourages his more senior officials to lend a hand to those who aren’t as long in the tooth.

“Going to the rink and helping officials help themselves get better can be very invigorating,” he said. “Even a very good, very experienced official will often find it fun and relaxing to mentor some new official at a lower-level game where the stress levels aren’t nearly as high.”

But no matter where you officiate, Carrington emphasizes keeping one thing in mind: the love of the sport and those playing it today.

“If you’re not having fun, you shouldn’t be out there.”

Winning Never Goes Out Of Style For Hall Of Fame Coach

12/01/2016, 12:30pm MST
By Harry Thompson - USA Hockey Magazine

Bill Belisle has coached for the past 42 seasons

Speaking from his heart, Coach touches the hearts of millions

12/01/2016, 12:15pm MST
By Harry Thompson - USA Hockey Magazine

Tag(s): News & Features