Tryouts were a little different this year for the Strongsville (Ohio) Youth Hockey Club (SYHC).
Instead of holding them in April for the upcoming fall season, the Strongsville Mustangs opted to push back tryouts until August due to the coronavirus pandemic.
“We just wanted to wait and make sure that local house guidelines were set up so we could bring all these kids back safely,” SYHC President Mindy Wahl said.
Players rotated in and out for the sessions and coaches were held to a minimum. Every age group — the SYHC offers 10U, 12U and 14U — had three sessions apiece. The first day was skills testing, the second day was filled with cross-ice and small area games and Day 3 was used for scrimmaging.
“We typically would split them into sessions,” SYHC Hockey Director Corey Hicar said. “We just had to control the amount of players that were on the ice.”
Tryouts, in which about 180 kids took part, went off according to plan and, most importantly, everyone had fun and was safe.
“We’re just excited to have some hockey, to have some sports,” Wahl said. “It was just fun to watch the kids scrimmage after not really getting to watch much of anything. We’re just excited to return to the ice.”
Around mid-July, the Mustangs board sent out surveys to its members to obtain feedback and get a gauge of how the community was feeling about the pandemic and when hockey should start back up.
“Based on some of that feedback, we altered some of our summer ice program,” Wahl said. “We normally run a summer ice program where we invite all the kids out. We decided this year might be too many kids on the ice at once, so we let everybody choose one of three sessions [to attend]…we did make sure there was no more than 20-25 kids on the ice at one time.”
The SHYC board took everyone’s thoughts into account before setting tryout dates as well as practice start times.
“We kind of took the temperature of obviously the folks in the club, and our board members are made up of a good mix of people with kids of different ages,” Wahl said. “We have a couple [8U] moms, a few [10U] moms and then there’s some of us that have been around quite a while. My youngest is a [12U player] and my oldest is in high school, so we have a good pulse I think on what every level of parents are thinking.”
The SHYC, which had shut down operations on March 17, along with the OBM Arena in Strongsville had plenty of safety measures in place to help ensure safety for the players, staff and parents. A flawless approach made for smoothly run tryouts.
“Our rink’s been really good about following obviously whatever requirements by the health department,” Wahl said. “We have a one-way flow of traffic through the building, everyone’s required to wear a mask up until they take the ice. We also took temperatures of all of our kids that were getting on the ice and any parents that accompanied them into the building.”
The majority of kids came mostly dressed and laced up their skates in the lobby. Parents were asked not to accompany their kids to the locker rooms. Instead, parents could stay outside and enjoy what was dubbed “a party in the parking lot.” Cars were parked in every other space, families brought food and the rink set up a beer garden.
“We asked all the families to stay out there instead of kind of congregating in the lobby all close together, with faces up against the glass, like they always like to do during tryouts,” Wahl said. “Everyone really liked that.”
Tryouts were held Aug. 10-13 and 16, and the first day of fall practices started the next day. Since teams weren’t finalized for the first few practices, players skated with the kids in their same birth year.
As of right now, the Mustangs players can only practice and compete in intrasquad scrimmages, but that doesn’t change the enthusiasm of the players and coaches, said Hicar.
“I know the kids really love being back out there on the ice and our coaches do, too.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.