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03-17-2008, 01:13 PM
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Originally Posted by imahockeymom View Post
Some random thoughts:

Best way to "grow the program" is from the bottom up.
Wow, you must have read my book..."How to build a youth hockey program from the ground up!"

Get sponsors to cover some of the ice costs for your LTS and LTP programs, then plaster area elementary schools with brochures.
It's hard to go out and get sponsors to purchase "Learn to Stake & "Learn to Play" ice, espeacially when they have no devested interest. It might work if they have a child in the program. They might help with cost of practice jersey. But with Ice cost so high across the country (Phoenix: $400.00 Houston: $375.00 Chicago: $395.00) It hard for a corporate sponsor to absorb these type of costs.

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).
This one works great! We got a grant from our local state hockey association for so "Hockey One" equipment. They gave us 30 sets of equipment in which we have been renting out for $20.00 a month. It definitely makes it more palatable for the parents to bit.

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.
I do give them come for the first couple of classes for free. This also helps. I recommend breaking up the payments for the program up into monthly payments. yes it's more paper work, but stay on top of payments with an excel spread sheet. USA Hockey has a program that also keep track of all of this info for you if you don't have a system in place. The USA Hockey program is by far the best program I have used to track payments and keep things in line with the books.

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?
This is why I have been asking if you have a (or several) youth hockey associations within your facility. This will determine how we will help you design your program.

If you don't have a program that is controlled by parents, then you will have to design it in a way that works for all kids within your program. Plus, you will have more control on how to design your program with out everyone putting their two cents in. Don't get me wrong, feedback is good, I have learned a lot by some parents complaining. But building a program with the owner of the rink is easier.

If you have a parent group running the association (Which is more likely the case) then there will be some things that you will need some help with the rink owner.

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)?
Puckboy, what I thing she is tryig to say is not so much the parents having the money. Because you need a lot of money to have your kids play travel. I think that when she, Imahockeymom, talks about this, she means that kids have to have the talent to make the team. Example: After I built a program in Mexico, I was invited to help out with a program in Phoenix. They asked me to help a headcoach evaluate his AAA Peewee travel team. I made recommendations to the head coach that he should cut this player and keep this other player. The one that should have been cut was kept because his Dad had money and they stayed in better hotels when they travelled. The kid that they decided to cut instead, was 10 times better then the kid who's parents had money. I wonder how to this day, how the kid who got cut felt?

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)
This is the area where corporate sponsorship comes into play.

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?
This is where the evaluation process should take place. NO kid should move up to teams unless they have the skill level to compete. This is where you need to have a hockey director who will place kids where they belong. This stage of the game should not be up to a parent's board. MOST parent boards are only looking out for there kid. The politics at this stage is counter productive.

(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.
Ya, it too bad this had to happen. This is because the parent's board probably felt that they couldn't leave no kid behind. They probably did this so their kids (ones with better skills) could play and then they could tell their co-workers that..."My son plays on a travel team!" Rather than admit that their son rides the bench. Which by the way is a disgrace. NO kid should sit the bench! At any level and at any stage of the game, NO kid should be short shifted as you get closer to play-off times. If you kid is sitting the bench, it means that he's skills are not ready to be on the team. No, if you don't have enough kids to round off the team to compete, make sure that the weak kids are also in a developmental program as well.

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!".)
Plus, let me add, if you are the coach and your son doesn't have the skill level, then don't coach this year. Don't place your son out on the ice if he is not ready to compete. Think of the team first. When you go out to compete and you have players that do not have the skill level. You might as well place 4 kids on the ice against there 5 kids. You might as well be playing short handed the whole game.

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.
Here's where we disagree a little. Boy have we opened up the flood gates on this one. I have been developing programs for over 30 years and in my humbling opinion, a lot of parent boards make it harder to run programs because the majority are only looking out for their childs interest and not the program as a whole.

I might be off base on this one, but every program that I have been involved with it seem to be the case. I don't care how connected you are with the parents board, in fact, the more you are connected, the more you will see that the system is designed to help there kids and not yours. Check out the pudding. See how many board member's kids are on travel teams in your program! You will never see a board member who sit on a board who kid plays in the house league. If there is, they are far and few between. Board members have a tendency to make decision for the travel team's interest and sometimes not so much for the house league.

Now that being said, it is important for a youth hockey association hire a hockey director to move the association in the direction that is best for the club. Make sure that the director doesn't have any kids in the program. If they do, I hope the kids in figure skating. The director needs to be the mediator between the parent board and the parent. If you don't have a hockey director, the parents feel that if they complain, then their child will suffer and things will go to deaf ears. Seen that happen!


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