When the Walpole Express teams take their summer break, the girls in the Massachusetts association have plenty of opportunities to keep in touch with the game and their teammates.
Most of the summer programs are designed around fun and exposing the sport to more potential players, according to second-year girls’ director Lisa Stampfli.
The girls gathered for a season kickoff party June 1. Players tried on their game jerseys and had access to vendors for equipment. A tailgate party in the parking lot was followed by an All-Star Skills Competition. The girls competed in skating, puck-handling and shooting accuracy contests.
“Last year, pretty much everything was new,” said Stampfli, who took over and expanded a Walpole girls’ program that had been in place for seven years. “This year, I’m trying to build on what we started with last year.
“We did have a kickoff party last year, but we didn’t have a skills competition. That’s new.”
Instead of trophies or plaques, the prizes were fun toys meant to represent the skill the players possess, such as squirt guns for the best shooters.
“It’s a little bit of competition, but a lot of fun,” Stampfli said.
Girls who are part of the Walpole program can take part in Sunday skills sessions divided into Under-10, U12 and U14 groups in the summer. Walk-ons can take part as well.
The Red Devils U8 girls’ team meets each Thursday night for a more formal program of skill development.
“They’re trying to see if [hockey is] something they want to do,” Stampfli said. “About half the kids in the U8 program are brand new to hockey.”
The offerings for the players already entrenched in the program are much less formal.
“For the older kids, they’re skating once a week on Sunday nights, and we don’t get all the kids every week,” Stampfli said. “For them, it’s a social thing as much as hockey. They skate. We make it fun.
“They’re meeting their teammates for next year, meeting their coaches for next year. We encourage that, but it’s not four days a week like it is in the season.”
Those who are more serious about developing their game in the summer can take part in the Backyard Shooting Contest, pushing themselves toward a goal of shooting 10,000 pucks during the summer. They began June 1 after the kickoff party and are able to input their information and monitor their progress through a website and computer program that Stampfli set up for the players.
Averaging about 100 shots per day would make the goal of 10,000 possible.
Later in June, the newest addition — a U6 group — as well as the existing U8, U10 and U12 girls’ teams have their Summer Open House and Bring a Friend Day to try to expose the game to more players.
The summer activities conclude in August with the second Summer Sizzler Tournament. More than 20 teams from throughout New England, New York and New Jersey took part in divisions from U10 through U19 last year and U8 will be added this year.
When it’s over, the Walpole Express will be ready to continue the expansion of their girls’ program into the next full season.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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