Since the implementation of its 8U/10U girls house program four years ago, the Falmouth Youth Hockey League has given Cape Cod-area girls a place to learn, grow and have fun in the game.
”Basically it’s the beginner program,” said Laura Moynihan, the Falmouth girls program director who doubles as the associate coach in chief for girls/women in USA Hockey’s Massachusetts District. “But it’s also set up for girls that don’t want to play on boys’ teams but want to play on all-girls teams. They’re new to the game. It’s a low-cost program that’s held once a week.
“It’s intended to be skill-based with the focus on skating and basic hockey skills. The benefit of this program is it brings girls into the sport who haven’t played it before. It’s also beneficial for girls who want more ice time.”
FYH administrators and coaches discovered that the program was “a good way to get girls in the door and give hockey a try without having to pay a lot of money,” according to Moynihan.
Eventually, if girls who have participated in this program want to continue, they move into FYH’s travel program.
“For girls on travel teams, they may only play a league game on Saturday,” Moynihan said. “But they might come out Sunday and do an extra hour of skills.”
Girls hockey at Falmouth predates the house teams, and wasn’t always the thriving program it is today.
“The all-girls program in Falmouth started in 2002 and was called the Falmouth Pride,” Moynihan said. “In 2008, the Pride merged with Falmouth and became part of our organization. One of the main reasons we did that was to get better ice time and keep the cost of playing as low as we could.
“The effort was made not only to sustain what we had but also to grow the program. By merging with Falmouth Youth Hockey, we were able to create different levels of play and get the benefit of the youth hockey association’s resources.”
The organization instantly went from two teams to eight — including the Cape Cod Storm, a Tier II program — and now fields teams from 10U through 19U.
“We have the three levels [10U and 8U house, Tier III teams and Tier II teams] in the system, which allows for the continued growth of the program — a place to develop and a place to play without having to travel. We found our girls were leaving the community to play. Now, we’ve reversed that.”
The FYH’s approach to girls hockey has something of a “best of both worlds” look to it. The association doesn’t emphasize a “win-at-all-costs” mentality, yet it has won its fair share of championships. Learning the game is always at the forefront.
“We strive to teach the ‘winning isn’t everything’ philosophy,” Moynihan said. “Games are not a matter of life and death. Skill development is more important than games. Hockey should be fun and girls should try all positions.
“My philosophy on the girls’ side has been that, as coaches, we must make sure we prepare girls for the next level. It’s not to win a lot of hockey games.”
Yet from 2011 through 2014, FYH girls captured two Massachusetts Tier III state championships, two Massachusetts Tier II state championships and one USA Hockey national championship (the Cape Cod Storm 19U team in 2014).
Another factor in FYH’s ability to develop girls is its adherence to USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
“I think the main benefit is that they get more touches in game settings,” Moynihan said. “We play cross-ice-games at the mini-rink in Falmouth. When they play three-on-three in a smaller area, they’re more engaged and it’s more fun.
“In practice they’re getting way more rotations in their drills. They’re doing a variety of things like moving from station to station quickly so they’re not getting bored. The main thing is the repetitions in skill sessions which they wouldn’t have if not for the ADM.”
Moynihan also noted one not-so-obvious way in which she’s able to evaluate if FYH is maintaining the right development approach: smiles.
“Hockey should be fun,” she said. “That’s what it’s supposed to be. If you want them to keep coming to the rink, you want them to leave with a smile on their faces.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.