Instead of lecturing to parents about the value of USA Hockey’s American Development Model, St. Jude Knights Girls’ Program Director Jackie Wedster-Kooistra came up with a different idea.
“When we first started two or three years ago [with the ADM], some parents were so on board with what you say is best for their kids, they give you full range to develop their kids,” Wedster-Kooistra said.
“But I had two half-ice teams at one time. I had parents in the stands track how many touches, how many shots, how many passes and how much interaction there was. Then, I had them play full-ice games, and it literally was like night and day.”
Suffice it to say that cross-ice won over the parents in the in Crestwood, Illinois, association who had doubts about the ADM.
“You always get, ‘How are they going to learn what offside is?’” Wedster-Kooistra said. “That can be taught easily. Transition, puck possession and shooting technique must be taught before you get into offside.
“If they can’t skate, they’re not going to be offside.”
The St. Jude girls’ program is in its infancy, with just an 12U team to its name. But given the steps taken by Wedster-Kooistra, growth is on the horizon.
“We have a U12 team that competes at an extremely high level,” Wedster-Kooistra said. “I’ve been with the advanced girls for a couple of years trying to build the program.
“Next year we’ll be able to have a U10 and U12 team because the word is out. There’s a huge buzz around the south side.”
One thing Wedster-Kooistra did to help create “a huge buzz” was hold a Girls’ Hockey Day that included a visit from 2010 U.S. Olympian Lisa Chesson.
“We had such an amazing turnout at the Girls’ Hockey Day,” said Wedster-Kooistra, a former player at the University of New Hampshire and for age-group U.S. national teams. “The girls absolutely loved it. I tried to make it a fun environment and my friend, Lisa Chesson, brought her silver medal. The turnout was better than I thought it would be. Over 70 girls came out to promote the event.”
In addition to the 12U girls’ team, St. Jude also has learn-to-skate and learn-to-play programs to introduce younger players to the game. The learn-to-skate program is open to girls who are at least 2 years old, but most are between 3 and 8.
“The buzz is unreal,” Wedster-Kooistra said. “I came to a learn-to-skate session and was so surprised at the number of new girls who joined. There are 12 new girls in learn-to-skate alone who’re trying to get ready for next season.
“They’re all joining together and embracing it. We have pink helmets and jerseys. We participate in the Stick it to Cancer Tournament every year in Minnesota. Last year we had special jerseys made with the breast cancer awareness symbol on them.”
Once girls graduate from learn to skate, they move onto the learn-to-play program, where they can remain until they’re 10 years old. At that stage, girls are introduced to the ADM.
“I follow the ADM program to a T,” Wedster-Kooistra said. “It’s wonderful. It’s revolutionary. It’s going to change hockey.”
In Wedster-Kooistra’s opinion, the fact St. Jude has embraced the ADM has made it easier not only to retain girls but also to recruit new ones to join.
“I think wholeheartedly that’s the case,” she said. “I’ve seen so many new faces from Girls’ Hockey Day alone. They all ask me, ‘Where do I go from here?’ My answer is, ‘We’re developing here first, and then you’re going to be my all-stars.’
“We really want to develop our girls’ program. It’s a matter of giving them the tools to succeed.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
The Referee Section of USA Hockey recently met during Annual Congress and discussed a variety of issues that will have an impact in the success of the officiating program. Many of those issues relate back to the successful completion of the registration requirements and the retention of officials.
Streamlining the registration process and maximizing the efficiency of our educational platforms are always a priority and the following Q-and-A will highlight those changes that every official should be aware of heading into the new season.
USA Hockey: What is the biggest change made to the registration requirements for this season?
Matt Leaf: With more and more seminars transitioning to a virtual format, the Referees-in-Chief (RIC) have determined that there really is no need for the closed book exams. So, level 2, 3 and 4 officials this season will no longer be required to submit a closed book (or modified online closed book exam) upon completion of the seminar requirement. Instead, the open book exams have been expanded to 75 questions for level 2 and 100 questions each for level 3 and level 4.
The RICs acknowledged that the purpose of the exams has always been as a means to encourage rule knowledge, so more effort was made to put together open book exam questions that will encourage the officials to open the Rules/Casebook in an effort to not only learn the rule, but more importantly, understand the spirit and intent of the rule.
USAH: Are there any other changes to the exam process
ML: The only other change to the exams deal with those who do not pass the original exam. Level 2, 3 and 4 officials will now be able to complete their retake exam 24 hours after failing their original exam. Level 1 officials will still need to wait seven days as we want them to slow down and take some time reviewing the rules so they can gain a better understanding and improve their chances for success on the ice.
USAH: What changes, if any, have been made to the seminars? Are all officials still required to attend a seminar each season?
ML: Yes, except for Tenured Officials, all officials are required to attend a seminar for the level that they apply for each season. So, a Level 1 official must attend a Level 1 seminar, Level 2 attends a Level 2 and then Level 3 and 4 seminars will be combined as one seminar in many cases.
Level 1 officials are strongly encouraged to attend a seminar in their own area and most areas will mainly conduct in-person Level 1 seminars. Although there will be some hybrid Level 1 seminars with both a virtual and in-person component, the key here is that every Level 1 official is required to attend a Level 1 seminar ice session. This may require some additional coordination of scheduling for these new officials, but the reality is this on-ice practice is so critical to any future success they may have on the ice that the RICs feel it is critical that the ice session is part of their educational experience.
Level 2 seminars will also include an on-ice component that Level 2 officials need to be aware of when they plan their seminar attendance. The vast majority of Level 3 and Level 4 seminars will be virtual and officials are encouraged to attend a seminar at a date and time that is convenient for them.
USAH: Have there been any changes to the curriculum for the various levels?
ML: The curriculum for each level was standardized prior to last season and is something that will continue to be updated on an annual basis. The specific presentations, along with the video examples, have all been developed in a manner that provides valuable information specific to each level with new presentations and updated video examples being used to keep things fresh and relevant. In addition, the seminar curriculum has been coordinated with the online modules to minimize duplication and to diversify the required education for each level.
USAH: How about SafeSport and Screening – any changes to those requirements?
ML: The background screening process will remain the same as USA Hockey is required to conduct a national screen every two years on any official who is 18 years of age as of June 1 of the registration year (in this case 2022). Both the background screen and the SafeSport training are mandated by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) per the Amateur Sports Act initiated by Congress.
For SafeSport, any official who was born in 2005, or earlier, is required to complete SafeSport training on a yearly basis. This may include the full training or refresher training that is managed by the US Center for SafeSport. Although it will not have an impact on registration for this season, there was a change in SafeSport that has been made where the training will only be valid for a 12-month period of time and it not consistent with an overlapping season. This will be addressed during the summer of 2023.
USAH: Are there any other changes or areas of emphasis that you want officials to be aware of?
ML: A significant part of the discussions that took place with the RICs focused on the importance mentoring plays in the success and, ultimately, the retention of brand-new officials. USA Hockey loses 50% of our new officials every season and improving that retention rate by just 15% will result in 1,000 additional experienced officials joining our ranks each year. We need to do a better job of bringing new officials into the fold and then supporting them in ways that sets them up for a successful and rewarding experience. The RICs feel strongly the best way to positively impact this issue is through mentoring.
Experienced officials should expect to receive information later this summer that outlines expectations of a formal Mentor Program and asking them to volunteer their time and expertise to become involved as a mentor. Once we have established a pool of officials that are willing to contribute in this way to the next generation of officials, they will be assigned a group of new officials they can reach out to and guide them through the registration process, seminar attendance, assistance in completing the open book exam and reaching out to prospective assignors when the time has come they are ready to work games. Once they have stepped on the ice, that mentor can continue to be a valuable resource for the new official and provide the necessary support needed to be successful. We will also be encouraging local clubs, assignors and officials’ groups to implement Shadow Programs that will complement the Mentor Program and positively enhance the officials’ experience even more.
With everyone working together towards a common goal, USA Hockey can become a leader in addressing the officiating crisis while providing a positive experience to our next generation of officials.
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