USA Hockey’s Female Honors Award is designed to “recognize hockey associations that are leaders in growth, development and promotion of girls’ hockey.”
All of which are points of emphasis for the Northeast Metro Stars.
The Metro Stars were one of only 50 associations in the country to receive the award, in this case for the Minnesota District. The Metro Stars play under the umbrella of the Tartan Area Youth Hockey Association, based just east of Minneapolis/St. Paul.
One reason for the Metro Stars’ success in developing players is the association’s tactic of designing teams with smaller rosters, a concept recommended within USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
“The number of teams we’ve had has remained consistent for the last four or five years,” said Mark Herzog, the Metro Stars’ girls hockey director. “Part of the reason is we made a commitment three years ago to go to smaller rosters at the 10U and 12U levels. We did that intentionally to promote more ice time, more touches, etc.
“All of that is in the interest of getting more development. We’ve been able to pull that off successfully. Those roster numbers were created by design. Instead of two teams of 15 skaters we have three teams of 10 skaters, so our kids play more.”
This season, the Metro Stars will field eight teams ranging from 8U through 15 A.
The association has also found success implementing other tenets of USA Hockey’s ADM.
“We embrace the philosophy,” Herzog said. “We follow it to a ‘T’ with practice drills adhering to age training. We take a hard line on all of those things. We work hard to keep the kids playing within their age group instead of pushing kids up to an older age group.
“We think it’s healthy to play in your age group. Small-area games are part of what we teach. ADM is really the foundation for all of our on-ice hockey development.”
The Metro Stars also enlisted ProEdge Hockey Development. This training program even works with NHL players.
“We have them come in throughout the year and teach skating and teach edges,” Herzog said. “The skating drills are a big part of the ADM. When we bring in the instructors, the kids seem to get a lot out of it.”
The Metro Stars also hold an annual Girls Hockey Day, in which all teams play a home game in succession at Tartan Arena.
“We have announcers, music, festivities and different types of food,” Herzog said. “We make it an environment where kids want their families to come. Our goal is to have the rink packed. We market it as a celebration of girls’ hockey, but we also do it to create an awareness of girls hockey in the area.
“One of the important factors here is the focus has been on girls having fun and developing. When they do that, they talk about hockey with their friends. This is a by-product of the kids enjoying their experience.”
The organization also runs an annual Christmas drive to benefit a local homeless shelter.
“The contributions were made by team members themselves. The 12 B team has continued that tradition. They’ve been doing that for the last three years,” Herzog said.
The Metro Stars emphasize the importance of good sportsmanship and fair play and have instructed each girl on accepting both victory and defeat graciously.
“That is our philosophy and it has been in place at least 10 years,” Herzog said. “I don’t think it’s been difficult for us to live up to that from a coaches’ perspective. The coaches have been able to live up to the philosophy largely due to the fact we believe the kids need to be having fun first and foremost. If they’re having fun, they’re going to accept losing and winning graciously.”
To ensure this message is conveyed in its proper context, the organization has specific criteria for coaches before they’re assigned to teams.
“We’re very selective in who we allow to coach the kids,” Herzog said. “I’m biased toward two things. They need to have a hockey pedigree. If they’ve played, they understand emotionally and physically what the kids are experiencing.
“Secondly, we select coaches that have good inter-personal skills. They have good personalities and are a pleasure to be around so that the girls can connect to the coaches versus somebody that understands only winning. If the kids are having fun then winning takes care of itself.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.