If Summit Youth Hockey keeps growing like it is, its home in Breckenridge, Colorado, may soon have a sport that rivals skiing in popularity.
According to Director Chris Miller, the organization has increased its membership by an average of 15 percent annually over the last three years.
Among many reasons for growth, one that Miller is quick to cite is USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
“Our coaches have embraced the ADM,” said Miller. “They understand age-specific hockey training and continue their education after reaching required training levels.
“My favorite part about the ADM is how it works on the one thing that’s hardest to coach: hockey sense. The more game situations we put players in, the better. Most importantly, we want the kid to find the solution instead of trying to present it.”
The ADM is another reason why the organization has not only attracted more players, but also improved its retention rate.
“Whenever you focus on a proven system, you attract and retain your members,” said Miller. “And the ADM is set up to focus on more relevant skills and more relevant development.”
Currently, Summit Youth Hockey includes 8U, 10U B and C teams, 12U A and B teams, a 14U A team, an 18U team, and the Tigers, a high school-age team that consists of SYH 18U players.
“[This coming season] we will have a bantam B team because at every level we want to try and have at least two teams,” said Miller. “Our motive is to have each player play on a team at each level. And we don’t try to push kids into a higher level. We try to have a normal progression.
“We tell coaches what we’re looking for at a specific level and focus on the needs of those players.”
Another reason for the popularity of Summit Youth Hockey is its learn-to-skate and learn-to-play programs.
“We’re definitely an organization that builds from the ground up,” said Miller. “We offer a learn-to-skate program that funnels into our learn-to-play program.”
The latter is aimed at players 10 and under, and offers several player development options that, as Miller noted, are designed to help youngsters improve their basic skills.
“Player development is the key for long-term hockey success,” said Miller. “Our progressive training program helps build a solid skating and skills foundation while still having fun.”
Finding the right coaches is of major importance to Summit Youth Hockey.
“We have a great coaching staff that’s youthful but has lots of experience,” said Miller. “We try to bring in younger coaches that aren’t parents.
“Our peewee A staff includes two college club players that are retired and a former Miami of Ohio college player. Our longest tenured coach coaches our squirt B team because his skill set fits the squirt B level.”
To ensure the growth of Summit Youth Hockey, the organization has made a major investment to improve its rink, the Stephen C. West Ice Arena.
“We have one indoor and one outdoor rink,” said Miller. “Exposing the kids to outdoor hockey has given them a certain appreciation for the game. But because the outdoor rink didn’t have a roof and we get over 350 inches of snow [per year], the town made an investment to build a roof. That’s a $1 million project, which is a major investment.
“We hold practices on a pond that’s resurfaced. It’s the biggest one west of the Mississippi. We want to expose kids to different types of hockey, especially the roots of the sport.”
Summit Youth Hockey coaches and administrators have a sound knowledge of both the subjective and objective aspects of the sport for young players.
“The more we’ve understood coaching, the more we understand it’s parenting instead of old-school,” said Miller. “The mental state is as important as the physical state.
“We’re a developmental organization and not a outcome-based organization. It’s more about the individual players’ development instead of counting wins. We don’t tout ourselves as an exclusive AAA program; we’re a program that can develop kids at all levels.”
In order to do that, Summit Youth Hockey does its best to make the organization attractive to kids who might be inclined to try other sports.
“If the kids aren’t having fun, they’re going to do something else,” said Miller. “We coordinate with other sports. We don’t try to take over the entire calendar. We try to become that puzzle piece that fits in with everything.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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