The team concept is obviously important to any athletic organization, but for the Westland Hockey Association, that extends to being a part of the community.
When nearby Flint, Michigan, experienced a water contamination crisis, the Westland Mite Warriors coordinated collecting bottled water.
When the Westland Bantam Blazers held a Christmas party last year, whatever money the players received was donated to the Wayne Westland Goodfellows, an organization that helps underprivileged families.
“The Mite Warriors were playing a Flint team and the coaches decided they wanted to help,” said WHA President Tracy Posey. “We were going to Flint, so we decided to bring a case of water. But the Flint team’s families didn’t need water. That team matched ours and we donated it to a homeless shelter in Flint.
“Our squirt B team was playing a Flint team in February. They came to us and we donated cases of water to that team. We got a poster-sized thank you from the mite team which said, ‘Thank you Westland Warriors.’ All of the kids signed their names with their numbers. And the squirt team’s families were very appreciative.”
The same could be said of the families at the Wayne Westland Goodfellows.
“Playing sports isn’t about winning and losing,” Posey said. “It’s about life lessons. By doing what we did [with the Christmas money], they decided to pay it forward. For our coaching staff to have those ideas is an awesome thing.
“It was an idea that the coach of that team had. Do you want to have a Christmas party or do you want to donate that money … which they did through the Wayne Westland Goodfellows.”
That sense of community is what keeps players and their families coming back to Westland, and has helped them be successful on the ice.
“We have a strong family base,” Posey said. “People come to Westland and stay because they like our coaching staff. They like the association and they like what we do. We have an awesome group of families in Westland.
“When you’re in a [good] family, you don’t want to find a new family, so you stay with ours.”
Besides fielding teams from 8U through 18U, the WHA also has a Timbits learn-to-play program for boys four to nine years old.
“The lower levels are building up because we have a good Timbits program,” Posey said. “We are bringing in more kids from four to nine, which will feed our future. You get these kids interested in the game and they love it. Two years ago, we had about 10 to 15 kids in Timbits. This year, we had 40 to 50 kids.
“Part of the success of our Timbits programs is holding one or two try-hockey-for-free sessions per year. This gets the kids in the rink and piques their interest in hockey.”
That interest has resulted in WHA teams winning a variety of district and Michigan Amateur Hockey Association titles and advancing teams to the state tournament.
“We have such a good group of families and coaches, and that leads to winning or being successful,” Posey said. “We have kids who have been playing here forever and aren’t going to the NHL. We have a good coaching staff and our ACE director [Dan Donnell] makes sure our coaches are aware of new things.
“Tournaments are about winning, but also about families and kids bonding together. Most of our teams hold a Christmas party on their own, so that’s a bonding experience as well.”
The WHA has implemented USA Hockey’s American Development Model and utilizes station-based practices.
“In practices, we use the ADM in terms of rotating through the different stations,” Posey said. “Two years ago, we had [USA Hockey ADM regional manager] Bob Mancini come in and he talked to our parents regarding the ADM and why it was implemented. It helped a lot of parents understand the philosophy of the ADM. We talked about it in a meeting with our families and mentioned that USA Hockey didn’t implement the ADM just for the heck of it.
“They put in a lot of time to figure out the philosophy – and it works. We had a lot of skeptical people at first, but a good majority of them get it and they like it.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.