Bobcats’ 2005 AAA team focused on building a foundation
Perhaps more so than in any other sport, building a foundation of skills in young hockey players is often critical to their future success.
With the combination of strength, balance, power and finesse that the sport demands, mastering these elements at a young age is a major focus of most youth programs.
The Arizona Bobcats place a particular emphasis on that element of coaching, and their 2005 AAA squad is a great example of that.
The group of 11-year-olds is led by head coach Ron Filion and assistant Scott Wilson, and the pair has developed a plan that is focused not just on winning games, but also on developing players’ skills at a key juncture in their development.
“At this age group, the focus of coaching is on helping the players get stronger and faster,” Wilson said. “It’s still fun, and it’s all about growth at this level. We know we are not going to win any prestigious awards at the end of the year. It’s all about developing the skills to make them even better hockey players for next season.”
The team’s roster includes forwards Jack Briscoe, Jake DeLoux, Drew Hale, Hayden Hastings, Noah Howden-Rich, Gregory Johnson, Preston Jones, Levy Kozma, Logan Walz and Sheldon Wilson; defensemen Wayne Brown, Matt Duffy, Brody Hernandez, Maddox Johnson, Michael Saunders and Brody Walton; and goalies Blaise Becker and Elizabeth Ramsey.
It’s a good group of players – many who have played together for years and others who are new to the program, but have meshed quickly with the group.
“This team has a good core group of kids that has been around the Bobcats organization for the last few years,” Wilson said. “About six or seven of the kids have been with us since we were the VOSHA Mustangs. This year, we have a handful of new kids – from Alaska, New York, Las Vegas and Vermont.
“Players want to come to the Bobcats program because of Ron’s system.”
That system consists of a heavy focus on skill development at the younger ages – not so much the strategic side of the game, but the foundations of skating, stick-handling and strength. When the players get a little older and have mastered the basic skills of the game, then Filion and his assistants start dialing in to the more advanced elements of hockey.
“Ron has had a lot of success with individuals like Auston Matthews, Brendan Lemieux and a bunch of other kids who have gone on to play juniors and Division I college hockey,” Wilson said. “Ron’s program speaks volumes when you have kids that make it to the NHL, and it’s because of the system he has in place.”
Wilson, a former goalie, coached Bantam and Midget (high school) travel hockey in Southern Saskatchewan and Alberta while living in Billings, Montana, starting in the mid-1990s. He later moved to Arizona, and when his son, Sheldon, started playing hockey at the age of four, he got back into coaching. He has progressed with him through house and selects hockey, and they both moved over to the Bobcats program a few years ago.
“If you choose to invest in a travel hockey program, great coaching and the focus being on what happens inside the boards is what the Bobcats program has to offer, and it’s a privilege to be a part of,” Wilson said.
Wilson appreciates the program’s focus on developing players by placing them in situations where they are constantly challenged.
“Winning isn’t everything, but the Bobcats have always played up against older kids to help them get better,” Wilson said. “In order to develop, you have to play against bigger, faster, stronger kids.”
Photo/Lisa Hight/LRH Photography
— Greg Ball