If information is power, then the Valencia Junior Flyers aim to make their players and families among the most powerful in the country.
“Families don’t have enough access to information,” said Junior Flyers President Scott Allegrini of the Southern California organization. “How many times do you see kids jump into the wrong level because they think that’s what they have to do?
“Information is the biggest thing we can provide our players,” added Allegrini. “The state has gotten very competitive as far as levels of play are concerned. We owe it to all the families to provide all the information that we can.”
One way the Junior Flyers provide information is through hosting try-hockey-for-free days.
“To grow the game and grow understanding, you start at the bottom and not the top,” Allegrini said. “Every week we have a try-hockey-for free program.
“The boys come in for four weeks in order to grasp the concept of the game. Our retention rate is running over 60 percent.”
Arguably the most important way the Junior Flyers provide information is through their seven-step introductory program.
Step One, not surprisingly, is Hockey 101.
“That’s our learn-to-play program,” Allegrini said. “Our goal is to get them to come out when they haven’t skated and learn to function on the ice. We want kids to be able to skate and stand without assistance.
“They learn how to dress themselves. We spend time with parents to make sure they know what’s involved.”
Step Two is Beginning Hockey 1.
“It’s a continuation of the 101 program but we introduce more skills,” Allegrini said. “Ideally the kids are dressing themselves to the extent that they can.
“Skating drills get more advanced in terms of basic forward and backward skating. Our curriculum focuses very heavily on the skating element.”
Step Three is Beginning Hockey 2.
“We start introducing game elements, whether it’s defensive positioning or offensive positioning,” Allegrini said. “We teach elements of faceoffs and the rules of the game start coming into play.”
Step Four is Intermediate Hockey.
“Here we start getting into game strategy and controlled scrimmage situations,” Allegrini said. “It’s another notch up in terms of getting them ready to play. We focus on stops, starts and edgework.
“The idea is once you get out of the intermediate side, you’re ready for house-league play.”
Step Five is Advanced Hockey.
“It typically is done in conjunction with their first entry into league play, which reinforces skating and basic, elementary skills of the game,” Allegrini said. “The focus is on skating and more advanced shooting and passing techniques. Players should be able to skate proficiently forward and backward and be able to transition both ways.
“We highly recommend it because it reinforces what you don’t get from league play.”
Step Six is house hockey at Ice Station Valencia.
“This is our house program,” said Allegrini. “We play on an 8U surface that’s cross-ice specific. It’s designed for young players.”
Step Seven is joining the Valencia Junior Flyers.
“If you are so inclined, we have a full [travel] program,” Allegrini said. “We don’t push that in terms of that being your end goal. That’s the final step to get into the Junior Flyers program.”
The program this season included 8U Track 1 and 2 teams; 10U B; 12U A; 18U A, 16U AA and 18U AA.
“In developing boys to play at a higher level, it could be a house player moving into the travel level,” Allegrini said. “It’s important that a player develop a passion for the sport, whatever the level.
“It’s a matter of opening the door.”
One effective way the association has found to open doors is by embracing USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
“We’ve implemented it 100 percent,” Allegrini said. “Five years ago we decided we would not field full-ice mite teams. In the beginning, kids just want to play. Initially some parents were upset and felt we were doing a disservice to their kids, but one question I pose to parents is, ‘Would you ask your kid to pitch from the mound at Dodger Stadium?’ Or, ‘Would you ask your eight-year-old to dunk on the same rim as Magic Johnson?’ The game is played in small areas today. It’s best to train accordingly.
“I think we’re going to see more and more American kids playing the game and having success. The ADM lends itself to setting kids up for long-term success. I think the ADM definitely is on the right track.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc
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