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Goltz credits bond with rink for strength of Mission AZ program

 

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Each summer, once the frenetic pace of the hockey season has wound down and tryouts for the upcoming season have been completed, Jeremy Goltz takes a few moments to catch his breath and reflect on not only where his program has been, but where it’s going.

The director of hockey operations for Mission AZ, Goltz feels it’s important to step back and analyze some things that he believes have been the keys to building a successful and sustainable youth hockey program.

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“Once tryouts are over, I sit down and look over the rosters to see where kids are coming from,” Goltz said. “To me, that’s a huge indicator of what you’re doing right and what you maybe need to work on within specific age groups.

“The most important thing for me as I look at the numbers is our percentage of players returning to the program from one year to the next. Once again, we’re sitting at right about 90 percent. Of our 150 kids, almost all of those are returning to the program.”

Mission AZ just finished its 12th season, and the program has been based at Mission AZ Ice in Peoria for 10 of those 12 winters. Goltz said the relationship between his program and the people running the rink and its programs couldn’t be better. He credits much of Mission AZ’s success to the steady pipeline of players moving from in-house teams to Mission teams, emphasizing that continuity is key in the process of player development.

While other programs may bring in new kids from other associations at the start of each year, Goltz puts a particular emphasis on home-grown players, and he takes pride in having players come up from the rink’s learn-to-skate and in-house programs and continuing to play for Mission AZ through their Bantam or Midget years.

“We have a huge influx of kids from the in-house program heading into the 2017-18 season,” Goltz said. “Obviously, the Mite level is where you see it most, but we also had about 14 players who were new Bantams for us and who had come from the in-house program at our rink. That’s pretty significant for a program our size.”

Mission AZ’s model is similar to other well-established youth programs, though not every association has the luxury of doing it the way Goltz and his colleagues do. The in-house side and the travel hockey side work hand in hand. There’s even a selects program for players who are in between levels – those who are too advanced for in-house hockey but may need some more skill development before they’re ready to join a travel squad.

“Basically, our model is working,” Goltz said. “A ton of our kids started in house, worked their way through the select teams and have now moved up to the higher-level travel program. I’m pretty proud of our relationship with the rink and how it’s helped us really provide a path for development for a lot of kids.”

Larry Gibson is the youth hockey director at Mission AZ Ice, overseeing the in-house program. Goltz can’t say enough good things about his dedication to teaching the game to young players and preparing them for the next levels of hockey.

Crystal Roe is the program’s power skating coach and puts in countless hours working with in-house players as well. Jim Curley, the general manager of AZ Ice Peoria, is extremely supportive of Goltz and his fellow coaches, and does everything he can to put the Mission AZ program in a position to succeed.

“For me, looking at how we’re moving players through the system and developing kids from within our own rink really gives me a good idea of how we’re doing and some of the areas where we need to improve,” Goltz said. “It’s a good gauge for us to break down those statistics at this time of year.”

— Greg Ball