You could call Camillus, New York, a hockey community. But they take the community part just as seriously as the hockey part.
“The number of teams has remained the same because we’re a community-based organization, so we don’t allow anybody outside our town to come into the organization,” said President Joe Snyder of the Camillus Youth Hockey Association, which formed in 1971 and is based in the West Genesee School District. “Our focus is on our community and to develop our hockey players to play at the high school level. We’re community-based so we’re here for the community to develop players from a recreational and competitive standpoint and to play at the high school level.
“Some of our kids participate at a recreational level, but for many, their goal is to play for the West Genesee [High School] Wildcats. Absolutely a fair number of our boys have gone on to play for the high school team.”
The Cougars’ affiliation with the West Genesee High School coaches has been invaluable. Every Monday night, the coaches help conduct clinics and instructional practices for all levels.
“Our high school coaches will come out and run practices that are open to Snowbelt League and travel players,” said Snyder, who played in the CYHA and also for the town’s high school. “It’s run by the West Genesee High head coach [Frank Colabufo] and his assistants, but it’s for the CYHA players.
“The clinics are beneficial and we get a great turnout for them. They’re educational and fun and teach skills including puck handling and skating. It’s something that allows players to get additional ice time and coaching outside of the organization. It’s very well-received.”
Equally as important is the CYHA’s emphasis on intangibles like promoting respect, discipline, self-esteem and the value in having fun at all levels.
“We push that through our coaches to promote a positive environment,” Snyder said. “We strive for positive interaction between everyone in the organization from coaches to teams to players.
“It goes hand in hand. We promote having respect for everyone. It’s something that’s pushed from the top down, from the board to the coaches to the players and parents. It’s something we stress with our parents in terms of the code of conduct. It’s something that is communicated on a regular basis from our parents to our coaches to our players.”
With the exception of “tykes” (i.e., first-year players) and three 8U teams, two 12U teams, one 14U team and two 18U teams play in the appropriately-named Snowbelt Hockey League.
In addition, the 10U, 12U and 14U teams are travel teams.
At all levels, teams have benefitted from USA Hockey’s American Development Model. It has become an important part of the association’s educational philosophy.
“It’s well-received by the players, one reason being they get a lot of repetitions,” Snyder said. “It provides a positive experience.
“It’s important to communicate and inform, especially with people who are new to the program. We do a lot of communicating and informing about the ADM in our organization. As people learn more, they embrace and understand the benefits of the ADM.”
Many parents then opt to join the CYHA’s Parents Organization, which plays a vital role in the association.
“The parents organization has its own board of directors,” Snyder said. “They support the CYHA and the [visiting] teams when we’re hosting Snowbelt Tournament jamborees. This is a resource to help those teams. When we host tournaments, they’re involved in holding raffles. They’re involved in food setup and help organize the tournament.
“They are a resource for a [CYHA] team that wants to raise money. If we didn’t have that board, we would have to help teams. They take on a responsibility that the board doesn’t have to focus on. They are a key to our success.”
In that vein, the CYHA Parents Organization plays a major role in the annual Cougar Thanksgiving Day Challenge, which is held for 12U, 10U and 14U teams.
“The reason it’s been around for so long is that teams always are competitive,” Snyder said. “We put on one of the better tournaments in the area. We provide food. It’s well-organized and our people are committed to making teams feel like they’re at home.
“We have a lot of teams that return because of the hospitality we provide and how well the tournament is run.”
Given Snyder’s involvement with the CYHA as a player, a man who coached for eight years and who became a board member several years ago, he brings a relatively unique perspective to the association.
“My satisfaction is seeing development of players and that they’re growing and having success,” he said. “It’s seeing them transition from young players to adults and seeing their development as hockey players.
“It’s being able to teach the game to young people and getting them excited about ice hockey.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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