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Submitted By Laura Vandrunen on Friday, July 29, 2016
It may seem far too early to start talking about the upcoming hockey season, but with this being the inaugural season for the OS Ice Hawks Girls Initiation Program, we want to get some information out early (don’t worry, summer isn’t over yet!).    

Many of you have expressed interest in the new Girls Initiation program and/or know of families who could be interested.  We won’t have all the details until we have final registration, but we hope the information below will help you plan for the fall/winter, and give you an overview of our goals for the program.  

First, why are we running a dedicated Girls Initiation Hockey Program? 

For anyone with older players, you’ll know that Owen Sound has always run a mixed Initiation Program for both boys and girls, as is done in neighboring centres.  The OS program is excellent and has had tremendous coaching for many years.  So, why duplicate the program?    Girls Hockey in Owen Sound has traditionally started at the Atom level so girls would graduate from Initiation into a mixed format for Tyke and Novice, then have the opportunity to play on an all-girls team.  In my coaching experience, girls that otherwise enjoy hockey, start to leave the sport after Initiation and many will be gone before Atom – unless they get the opportunity to play with other girls.  Obviously there are many factors and every kid is different – some will love hockey so much that they will play with anyone anywhere – but for many girls, they enjoy the sport more when playing with other girls – and will stick with it longer if they are playing on a girls team.  To bridge the gap between Initiation and Atom, the Ice Hawks started a Novice Development program several years ago where girls from around the region could play in their dedicated mixed league and on a part-time girls Novice team.  This team would practice biweekly and do a tournament at the end of the season.  The program was a great success and helped the girls get to know each other before forming a full-time team in Atom.  Several neighboring hockey associations ran similar programs and last year there was enough interest to establish a full-time Novice league with teams from Owen Sound, Chatsworth, Walkerton and Saugeen Shores.  The Novice Development program in Owen Sound continued, but players were primarily from Initiation and Tyke ages since all the Novice age players were playing on the new Novice team.  As a result, discussions started about the future of the “Novice” development program.  Girls associations in many larger centres have run Learn-to-Skate, and Initiation Programs and there is no reason we can’t do the same in Owen Sound.  In my opinion, more girls will try the sport, and more girls will stick with the sport, if they are playing with other girls – and the earlier we can introduce that, the better.  Registration numbers at higher age groups will depend heavily on how many girls we can attract to the sport at the younger age groups.  As they try the sport and make friends in the sport, they will generally want to continue with the sport (not many kids try hockey and don’t like it).  

So, with that out of the way, what is the program?  

The Mini Hawks program will be an Introduction to hockey with 2 main goals:  1) Make it fun, 2) Develop basic skills (primarily skating).  We’ll accomplish both of these by running fun drills and encouraging the kids on the ice.  We want to challenge them to improve, but the easiest way to do that, especially at the start of the year, is to run drills where they naturally want to participate and do well.  We will not teach the kids what an off side is, we will not teach positional play, and we will not run boring drills over and over and over.  Our measurement as coaches will be how many kids come back for the next season.  

Registration is open to girls aged 4-7 of all skating abilities. 

If your daughter cannot skate, we are happy to have her – I promise she’ll be skating in a few weeks.  If your daughter has already played before and can skate circles around the coaches, we’re happy to have her as well.  We will run some mixed drills where the more experienced players can be examples for the younger players.  We’ll also break the group into smaller stations based on skill level so we can challenge the smaller groups based on their abilities – especially at the start of the year.  

To help with the newer skaters, we will need lots of on-ice help. 

If you would like to assist, please get in touch.  Some kids respond very well to having their parents on the ice with them and some do not, so please take that into consideration.  It is also very important that we have some female instructors.  Nothing against dads helping on the ice, but we would like to include some older Ice Hawks players/alumni who can be role models for the next generation.  If you know of someone who would be suitable, please have them contact me directly.  

Scheduling is still being finalized, but we will have 2 ice times per week from October to March:  one mid-week practice and one on Sunday from 8:30-9:30am (we will confirm days/times as the season gets closer).  We have booked an Attack Mini Game, which will be Saturday, January 28th.  For anyone who haven't done this before, it’s a great time for the kids and their families.   

On-line registration on our website is NOW OPEN!!   

The more kids we have, the more fun we can make this season.  Please pass this information along to families who may be interested.  

Jeremy McCoubrey
Head Coach of our Owen Sound Ice Hawks Initiation Program

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