As president of the Columbus Hockey Association in Georgia, Clyde Glenn has taken particular satisfaction in watching kids grow through the learn-to play program.
“There was a little kid who wasn’t a great player,” Glenn said. “I remember the first day he fell down and was crying. A couple of years later the kid was a good squirt travel player.
“We also had an older boy come in that was 12, and by the end of the year he was a good skater. His family became attracted to our travel program. They embraced it. People who don’t know the sport come in and embrace it and see how it’s so much fun.”
The CHA has held both try-hockey-for-free and learn-to-skate programs.
Earlier in this decade, the CHA averaged 15 to 20 children per session. But in the last three years the learn-to-play sessions have attracted 33, 21 and 40 kids, respectively. There are 39 kids currently enrolled in the program.
“What isn’t reflected is our drop-in rate for learn-to-play,” Glenn said. “We noticed because families couldn’t make all the sessions, we allow families to drop in for $10 per session. We average around five drop-ins per week.”
The CHA has exceeded its own expectations for the try-hockey-for-free program. The association was hoping for 50 participants for its November program but ended up with 87 registrations and 57 kids showing up.
“We’ve been doing better advertising,” Glenn said. “We pass out flyers and post signs in schools. Our advertising campaign has been better than it has been in the past.”
Glenn noted that the CHA is still growing. Although the association has added a bantam travel team and house team since last season, Glenn said that the numbers “are the same but in different places.”
In total, the CHA has travel teams at the high school, bantam, peewee, squirt select and mite levels, plus house teams at various levels.
“Anywhere we play it’s a two-hour drive,” Glenn said. “CHA is the only youth hockey association in Columbus. If we have a gap at the peewee age group, it’s hard to make it up. But it’s growing the base at the 4-to-9 level so they come up together. When they get to peewee and bantam you have more house teams.
“You have to get more mite teams in order to have more bantam teams.”
The CHA also has embraced USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which has helped its coaches when it comes to determining practice plans.
“It’s helped avoid all the standing around during practice and keeps the kids occupied,” Glenn said. “It’s also helped the kids with the amount of puck touches they receive per practice.
“ADM has established building blocks in the development of our kids. Small-area games have significantly helped our kids with passing in tight areas, learning to keep their heads up and have a lot of fun at the same time.”
While the CHA had no trouble convincing parents of the benefits of the ADM, it’s been more of a challenge for the association’s coaches.
“The parents really like it,” Glenn said. “Some of the coaches had a harder time at first. In the North, you have a lot of experienced coaches. In the South, you have a lot of parents who coach and don’t have much experience.
“With the ADM, you can break it down into six different groups on the ice. The kids always are touching the puck, and the coaches don’t have to be super coaches. It’s a tool for us as coaches as well as a great building block for kids.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.