For those involved in youth hockey
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03-16-2008, 05:05 PM
Join Date: Sep 2006
Some random thoughts:
Best way to "grow the program" is from the bottom up. Get sponsors to cover some of the ice costs for your LTS and LTP programs, then plaster area elementary schools with brochures. Sponsor "come try it free" days. Apply for grants and/or get sponsors to buy some loaner equipment -- rent the gear out to families for the cost of having it ozone-cleaned at the end of the season (roughly $25). Taking away the "scary" financial commitment will open the sport up to a lot of people. (Think about it -- would you want to sign your kid up for a sport that was going to cost you $200 in equipment plus $500 in ice fees... just to find out he doesn't like it???) Get the kids sucked in while they are young, and your association will grow.
Decide exactly what your association is and isn't going to be. House? Is that House C (in-house only, playing vs teams in your own association) or House B (everyone makes the team, but playing vs teams in other associations in your general geographic area)? Are you going to offer travel hockey also?
If you have both house and travel, is there a mechanism in place so that the kids on the travel team DESERVE to be on the travel team (not just b/c their parents are willing to pay the money)? Is there anything that can be done for kids who SHOULD be on a travel team but are stuck in house hockey b/c of financial considerations? (scholarship fund) Likewise, is there a mechanism in place so that the kids who should stay in the LTP program for another year actually do that, instead of moving up to play on a "real team" where they are totally out-skilled?
(My kid's association had two Mite teams this year, and each team had 11-12 players each. Of those 23 players, at least 7 kids didn't belong on the full-ice Mite team -- they needed another year of LTP to develop their skating and stickhandling skills. If they had kept those 7 kids down in the LTP program, there would have been enough kids for a decent-sized Mite team with kids who were ready (skill-wise) to play Mite hockey, and the kids who stayed in the LTP program another year would have been able to build up their skills. Instead, we had two teams where kids on each end of the spectrum were about 4 years apart in skill-level. The "behind" kids couldn't keep up, and the "ahead" kids were bored out of their minds. As a result, almost NOBODY improved all season long. There has to be someone who has the balls to say, "your kid needs to learn more before playing full Mite hockey" or "I don't care if you do want to coach a Mite team, we simply don't have enough kids who are ready so we can make a second team -- go help out in the cross-ice program instead!".)
On an association level, get the families INVOLVED. Get them to come to board meetings and to participate with committees. When they are involved in the process, they feel more "ownership" of the process, and then they are more invested in seeing it succeed. If you're one of those associations where people just fill out the registration papers and pay their fee and drop off their kids at practice, they won't have an understanding of how and why things happen the way that they do, etc., and they will just feel disconnected from the entire process.
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