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USA Girls Hockey Weekend Helps Introduce the Game to Newcomers and Keeps Experienced Players Connected to it

By Steve Drumwright, 10/18/23, 9:00AM MDT

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The Weber County Jr. Mustangs hosted a successful event in Ogden, Utah Oct. 7-8

Kristi Davis was intimidated as a young girl when it came to playing hockey. She wanted to play, but didn’t feel comfortable, especially having to do it on a team mixed with boys in her awkward teenage years.

Nowadays, Davis is helping girls of all ages overcome what she dealt with in her youth as the director of female development for the Weber County Jr. Mustangs in Ogden, Utah.

Recently, the Mustangs hosted an event during USA Hockey’s Girls Hockey Weekend, which is an opportunity for young girls to either try the sport for the first time or be among other inexperienced players and grow together. There were nearly 60 similar or related events held around the country Oct. 7-8. 

In Ogden, there was a nice turnout of four goaltenders and 17 skaters. One of the focuses was those who were trying to become netminders, with three of the four trying to become a full-time goalie for the first time. A goalie coach was brought in to bolster the girls’ confidence.

“It's not their first year in hockey,” Davis said. “It’s just that they’ve always wanted to transition to goalie, so we're trying to give them that confidence. It's hard to switch over.”

Confidence and encouragement: When trying something new or not having as much experience as those around you, those two traits can be very important to creating success. Another important factor is having those giving the guidance be your peers as well as coaches who can understand the path a player is on. As such, the Jr. Mustangs program added two female coaches this season.

“You’re not just seeing one random female coach,” Davis said, “You’re seeing numerous female coaches, kind of adding to that example.”

Another big part of building confidence during that weekend was what Davis calls “encouragement notes.” Every player who came out and participated in the USA Hockey Girls Hockey Weekend in Ogden received a note from either another attendee or a coach, sometimes both, and everyone had multiple messages given to them. The notes were placed in envelopes that were tacked onto a hallway window.

“I tried to tell them, 'Tell each other when you're doing a good job. Your opinion matters,’” Davis said. 

Davis said the younger girls were very excited to receive an encouragement note from the older players they looked up to and tried to emulate.

“They just thought it was really fun, especially the young girls,” Davis said. “They were checking their envelopes. 'Ooohhh!' They were looking at the cards and then some of them would check theirs and then write new notes. It was just fun because we don't always get the youngest 6U to 8U girls at all the same practice sessions. So it was fun for them to be included.”

While the weekend served as an introduction to the game for some players, it was a chance to stay connected to the game for others. 

Building a bridge is one of the reasons for an event such as Girls Hockey Weekend. Not only to get newcomers into the program, but to keep others playing the game they enjoy and creating better numbers and depth. 

There is another event upcoming to build awareness of these opportunitiesas well. This one is across the globe, with the IIHF World Girls’ Ice Hockey Weekend taking place Oct. 21-22. Davis and the Jr. Mustangs will spend thisweekend celebrating what transpired at their event by spreading stories via social media.

“I'm getting contacted from more people every time we do stuff,” Davis said. “We're just trying to create that bridge and a place where — it's not that they're not getting these experiences, it's that we're trying to create an environment where they're getting it less stressful.”

Ultimately, Davis is hoping to take the Jr. Mustangs program from a recreational level to a stage where it can compete on all levels and be stable with the number of girls on the ice. Help for that comes in funding from the Brianna Decker Endowment for Girls Hockey through the USA Hockey Foundation, as the Jr. Mustangs received one of Decker’s grants this year. They used it to send two girls to become on-ice officials, which helps build the program, as hockey doesn’t have to end once a playing career does. The fund also gives chances for others to become coaches.

“That’s kind of really fun,” Davis said.

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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