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Entry-Level Programs Produce Full-Time Players for Essex Youth Hockey

10/25/2016, 3:45pm MDT
By Mike Scandura - Special to USA Hockey

Vermont association is the destination for girls looking to try hockey

The definition of a newbie is simply a person that’s new to something.

Similarly, for Essex Youth Hockey, the word “NewBee,” is a player who is just learning the sport.

But it means even more than that.

“NewBees is one of the key building blocks to our girls’ program,” said Essex president Dan Forcier. “It’s an entry-level program that’s designed to teach children ages five and up the fundamentals of skating in a fun and supportive environment.

“The objective is to provide a low-cost opportunity for young kids to develop skating skills plus an interest in the game of hockey. They meet once a week from October until late February. The NewBees program is a $50 season commitment.”

The NewBees program has proven to be a major factor in the growth of girls’ hockey in the 8U age group.

“In our area, 8U is growing,” Forcier said. “Even two years ago, very few associations had 8U programs and now several have 8Us.”

That’s especially true with Essex.

“Last year we had 8U, 10U and 12U teams while the 14U team was co-opped with another association to support a 14U program,” Forcier said. “This season, we’ll formally offer an 8U team. We are growing the girls’ numbers at younger ages but also recognizing a key element is bringing girls together as a unit and developing bonds among each other and developing a strong love for the game of hockey.

“It goes to the core from 8U to 10U to 12U to 14U.”

Essex Youth Hockey serves the Vermont communities of Essex, Essex Junction, Westford, Richmond, Jericho, Underhill and Bolton.

Forcier was clear when asked if, for some reason, Essex Youth Hockey was never formed, what other options would girls in these communities have if they wanted to play hockey?

“They would be left out in the cold,” Forcier said. “They either would have to travel to one of the other associations in our area — to another town — or they would not have another option.”        

In addition to the NewBees, another important developmental program for Essex Youth Hockey is the association’s introduction to hockey for girls in grades one through six.

“This also is a key element to grow the girls’ game,” Forcier said. “We partnered with our local parks and recreation department to offer a summer camp for girls in grades one through six to provide them with a taste of hockey in an all-female setting.

“We have seen development across all of our age groups, especially at the 8U level and that girls enjoy playing in an all-girls environment.”

While hockey experience isn’t required, a minimal amount is helpful.

Over three days, girls learn basic skating and stickhandling skills and play a few scrimmages. Coaching is provided by Essex Youth Hockey and area high school girls’ players.

After participating in this introductory program, and experiencing a “taste of hockey” as Forcier noted, girls will have a better idea if they want to continue to play the sport.

“Girls can find out how much fun it can be to play hockey in the company of other girls,” Forcier said.

Besides simply encouraging girls to try a new sport, Essex Youth Hockey places a heavy emphasis on ancillary areas like education, personal development, teamwork and sportsmanship.

“Our coaches at all levels are encouraged to adhere to our mission statement which is geared around the development and enjoyment of all of our members,” Forcier said. “We strongly encourage all of our athletes to be good sports on and off the ice as well as providing a healthy balance between practice times and supporting academic growth as well.

“We don’t want to shortcut the overall development process just for the sake of winning games.”

Essex Youth Hockey also promotes USA Hockey’s American Development Model.

“As we’ve implemented the ADM in our association, we’ve found girls like the small-area games as well as the opportunity for high counts of puck touches,” Forcier said. “In addition, general engagement in practices has been a big winner with the girls’ program.

“The two most important gifts that coaches and parents can give to their players and children are to allow them to develop a true passion for the game and to develop that passion on their terms.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc

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