If you are trying to provide a hockey experience to young people through a youth hockey tournament, camp, team, or program, you undoubtedly want it to be all that it can be and to provide participants with a variety of benefits, including both personal and athletic benefits. In order to do that, you need to regularly “step back” and evaluate your program, your objectives, and even your own motives.
To start off with, always keep in mind the specific things you want participants to accomplish by being a part of your program. If you don’t forget your outcome-related goals, it makes it a lot easier to constantly strive for and reach them in all that you do. It’s also important to regularly assess what kind of environment is the most nurturing for helping those goals along and to see how close your environment is to “living up” to that standard.
You also want to remember that, though hockey and growing as a player is undoubtedly going to be one of your main goals for your program, it should never be your only goal. Good programs focus not just on the sport but also on building stronger, more confident individuals who are skilled at teamwork, who are humble, who know how to work hard to accomplish goals, and who can conquer challenges. The best programs also don’t play “safe hockey,” which shelters kids to allow them to win more often. While some parents might like “easy wins,” these really don’t benefit kids in the long run or teach them anything real about the sport. Truly good programs build character in realistic ways, so strive to make your program live up to this expectation.
Finally, don’t forget to make your program FUN! Hire coaches or be a coach who isn’t TOO serious and who loves to incorporate fun, play, and a passion for the game into practices. If kids are having fun, they’re a lot more likely to stick with hockey for the long haul.
No hockey program can ever be 100% perfect, but if you follow these tips, your program can get pretty darn close.