Jr. Coyotes’ Mite Jamborees promote small-area games, positive experience
As the mite development director for the Coyotes Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) for five seasons, Tony Radke has the knowledge to grow the game from the lowest rung of the advancement ladder.
Radke, who also coaches the 2008 and 2009 Jr. Coyotes Mite teams, serves as a member of the Arizona Amateur Hockey Association (AA HA) Board of Directors, is the Jr. Coyotes (Scottsdale) representative to the Arizona Youth Hockey League committee, as well as the chair of the AAHA Mite Committee.
Part of Radke’s duties with CAHA is organizing and coordinating the organization’s Mite Jamboree events. The Ice Den Scottsdale held a Jamboree on Dec. 10 and the Ice Den Chandler will host its event on Feb. 4.
The Mite Committee has established standardized playing rules and format for all the Jamborees. Each association has the option of setting up their event to be played as 3-on-3 cross ice or 4-on-4 half ice and each game played within that format varies on the type of event. The number of teams is determined by the amount of ice time each association has available to hold their event and game lengths vary, but teams usually get to play several different games over an hour or so of ice time. More than 20 teams involved in these events in some instances.
“I think the Jamborees are a good example of a small part of the overall process,” said Radke. “These events are designed to give our state’s 8U players an opportunity to play some games at a fun event that is designed specifically for them, their families and their age group. They certainly play a part in their overall development, but the real progress for players at this age comes from well-run practices. The use of small-area games, skill progressions and proper ice utilization is really what provides the path for development through maximizing repetitions and puck touches.
“The Jamborees are a great way to support this growth and allow the kids to experience some games. There are also other activities that usually go on at the Jamborees that make these so much fun, like visits from (Arizona Coyotes mascot) Howler.”
And while the small-area game concept is nothing new at the Mite level, Radke has his own philosophy on the Jamboree events.
“Most, if not all, levels utilize the concepts of a smaller ice surface to aid in development,” explained Radke. “Through this process at this age, we are able to shrink the playing surface to maximize involvement and puck touches to increase development. Hockey is a muscle memory and repetition sport. The more opportunities players have to execute a skill, the better they will get. Small-area games support this and create an environment where the focus becomes less about one player being able to skate end to end and more about the use of skills like passing, stickhandling, and team play.”
As for his 08 and 09 Mite squads, Radke is relishing the opportunity being involved with those teams and players.
“We have been able to create a process that can be repeated each year,” said Radke. “For us, development of the 8U players is based on preparation for the next levels and also includes education for the parents. We have focused very heavily on the development of the players’ individual skills as well as the basic introduction of team play as they reach the end of their second 8U season. This process has proven to be a huge factor in the advancement of their individual skills while providing a bridge to the 10U level.
“Our teams this year are doing fantastic. They are progressing as well as any teams we have worked with in the past and are having a great time. We are excited to see how they will continue to progress as we move to the second half of the season.”
— Matt Mackinder