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Bandits Develop Players, Empower Parents

01/06/2017, 9:00am MST
By Mike Scandura - Special to USA Hockey

Education and quality coaching are key tenets of New Jersey association

New Jersey Bandits Hockey Director Justin Stanlick didn’t need to think for very long when asked why the Bandits were named a USA Hockey Model Association.

“For us, I think the biggest thing is the culture we have in place,” Stanlick said. “That starts with the ownership group, the Reiss family, and it includes [Coach] Jim Hunt, who’s a long-time proponent of the American Development Model with USA Hockey.

“It starts with the culture and the dedication from the top to Coach Hunt. Every opponent sees the amount of dedication to the kids. They try to match that, which elevates everybody else.”

The Bandits are comprised of 24 travel teams ranging in age from 6U to 18U and a total of 340 boys and girls.

Stanlick was quick to agree that player development is on the upswing, and it’s especially dramatic with the Bandits girls teams.

“Across the board we’re seeing tremendous growth, especially with our U-10 [pink] and our U-12 [white] girls teams,” he said. “They’ve made tremendous strides. You wouldn’t even recognize them because they’ve made such a large jump.”

Stanlick attributes that to eager players and the Bandits coaches, especially those who work with girls who possess minimal skating ability when they join the program.

“We’re big proponents of station work,” he said. “With the girls, there is a greater variance of ability. Some of our 12s are only a year into skating.

“By focusing on skill development, we’ve seen the whole level come up 10-fold.”

The Bandits implemented the ADM prior to the 2010-11 season and its principles have been a major reason why their players have shown improvement.

“It’s across the board, at all levels,” Stanlick said. “[What] I definitely see is, by having a greater focus on individual skills, developing individual skills and breaking them into smaller groups, it’s made the learning process easier and more efficient.

“Our objective is to provide leadership and create a complete hockey experience by using USA Hockey’s American Development Model.”

Another factor in the equation is an emphasis on coach-to-player ratio.

“At the 8U level, we have an increased coaching presence,” Stanlick said. “We now have 70 8U players and we have several coaches, so we get it down to a six-to-one ratio.

“Going into 10U, it increases slightly, to seven-to-one on average. I definitely think that number, along with the focus on individual development, especially at the younger ages, has paid dividends.”

While everybody regardless of sport likes to win, the Bandits feel an emphasis on skill development will enhance teams’ chances of winning games.

“[Winning and player development] aren’t mutually exclusive,” Stanlick said. “Winning is an important part of development.

“We focus on the development process in the way it needs to be done. If your child adheres to it, winning will be a byproduct.”

The Bandits also espouse long-term athlete development as opposed to short-term success with the key being to find the correct balance, which the organization believes starts with personal accountability.

In order to do that, the Bandits reach out to parents.

“We really strive to bring in parents,” Stanlick said. “We run a seminar with a PowerPoint demonstration organized by Coach Hunt and me. We try to be as transparent as possible with the ADM. We want to empower the parents to know more about the ADM and coaches’ practices plans.

“One well-run practice is equivalent to 13 games. It’s huge if we can show that to the parents.”

Once parents see the success their kids are experiencing, especially those who have participated in learn-to-skate programs, more often than not, they remain with the Bandits.

“Sometimes players talk about college commitments,” Stanlick said. “But it doesn’t matter what the end goal is. What matters is that they stay in our building [the Ice Vault] from Day One.”

Besides what Stanlick calls a “strong 8U program” and a “strong learn-to-skate program” the Ice Vault alone is playing a major role in the increased number of registrations.

“For us, the big change is the opening of a third rink,” Stanlick said. “Now, instead of a two-sheet facility, we have an off-ice training center which is located in the third rink.

“I think the schedule is more convenient with three rinks. Scheduling pressure has been relieved. The other big draw is seeing how nice the rink is.”     

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc

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