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Brewins Thriving, Growing in Massachusetts

By Mike Scandura - Special to USAHockey.com, 09/12/15, 11:00AM MDT

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Combination of skill development and success spurs retention

In recent years, the Brewins Youth Hockey Association (BYHA) has received the following accolades:

2012-13 Massachusetts Youth Hockey Program of the Year (the first time that the association, founded in the early 1980s, was given this honor)
2011-12 Yankee Conference Program of the Year
2008-09 South Shore Conference Program of the Year

Coaching Coordinator Chris Lavoie is quick to note the reasons why this association, based in Bridgewater, is held in such high esteem.

“We have good leadership from our board of directors,” he said. “The board sends out a good message to coaches and parents. As an organization that’s affiliated with the Yankee Conference and the South Shore Conference, we do our due diligence. They respect that. Our District 4 representative says we always get him all the information he needs when he needs it.

“We pride ourselves in providing information. We try to build strong relationships with both conferences in which we play.”

The BYHA also did something else which, in effect, has enabled the association to extinguish any fires before they get out of control.

“Six years ago, we developed a disciplinary committee,” said Lavoie. “Any issues that arise go through us first. We weren’t going to sit around and let things happen. We were going to take care of it first. We run a tight ship.”

The BYHA, which Lavoie said is one of the biggest organizations in the South Shore area, will suit up 21 teams next season in the South Shore Conference ranging from 10U B2 through Select, and four teams in the Yankee Conference (Under-6 C and Under-8, 12U C, and 10U C).

“Over the past four years, we’ve had between 350 and 395 players,” said Lavoie. “We have more mites, more younger players that have come into the program.”

Another reason why the BYHA has thrived is the emphasis on communication.

“We work with our parents,” said Lavoie. “We have an open system of communication that helps us. That’s what’s made us successful. Any company you run, it’s all built on communication.

“I don’t know what it was like in the early 2000s. But if we have meetings with parents and children if there’s an issue, we have as many people as possible discuss the issue.”

The point being, once the meetings are over, all parties concerned are on the same page.

Lavoie couldn’t emphasize enough the importance of the association’s coaches when it comes to working with boys of all ages.

“We get a lot of good talk about our coaches,” he said, adding that the association also educates its coaches on USA Hockey’s American Development Model.

“Since I’ve been here (2005), we try to get coaches for the younger kids. To me, it’s the old coaches from the past passing down what they did best and our trying to make it better.”

Last season, BYHA’s B2 team captured the South Shore Conference championship while the 10U C team won the Yankee Conference crown. But winning championships isn’t necessarily high on the list of the association’s priorities.

“It doesn’t hurt that we’ve had some very competitive teams at various levels,” said Lavoie. “Everybody likes to win and it does help kids want to come back. But we meet monthly during the season and stress the fundamentals of hockey. Everybody gets equal playing time.

“We allow the coaches during the last two minutes of every game to put the five best kids on the ice and try to go after the win. But we do stress equal play and equal time.”

In retrospect, that’s a prime topic of discussion at the association’s meetings.

“We have coaches do 3-on-3 scrimmages,” said Lavoie. “We’re trying to get all of the coaches to teach the same stuff.

“It’s good when coaches have the same philosophy and we do a good job of it. We have coaches meetings throughout the year and we meet with new coaches. It’s nice to see that they’re all going in the same direction.”

Two of several reasons why the BYHA has been able to register nearly 400 players per season involve what’s done both on and off the ice.

“In 2012, we started a learn-to-play hockey program for kids aged five to 12,” said Lavoie. “They get an hour of skills on Saturday and 3-on-3 on Sunday. We’ve averaged about 100 boys the past three years.

“That’s been a great tool for us in terms of getting them to stay. And it also tests their skills at a different level.”

Off the ice, the BYHA does its best to provide equipment for boys whose families might not be able to afford the expense.

“We hold an equipment drive during January and give out equipment to 20 to 25 kids,” said Lavoie. “That’s helped a lot because hockey’s not the cheapest sport. That’s been a very good program for us.”

So too has the ADM, which the BYHA embraced four years ago, and helped parents understand the benefits it would provide to their boys.

“Parents were a little frustrated the first year because they were accustomed to 5-on-5,” said Lavoie. “Now, the kids don’t leave. They enjoy it. It’s worthwhile to teach 3-on-3. They touch the puck more than if they were playing 5-on-5 hockey. I wish I had this when I was playing (youth) hockey. It’s finally ingrained in the parents.

“We have a skills program early in the year and we have a really good skills program manager (Scott Mondeau) who’s helped us out in recent years. He loves doing it.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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