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Jr. Sun Devils’ 16U group will ‘overcome, learn and grow’

 

Sean-Preference

Every year, optimism is sky-high on the eve of a new hockey season.

For the Desert Youth Hockey Association (DYHA), the Jr. Sun Devils are no different.

Sean Whyte, who will coach the program’s 16U team this season, said he sees that team as “a tight-knit brotherhood, and they play for the logo on the front of the jersey.”

Whyte saw this component of the team this past summer during tryouts.

“I was blessed with very difficult decisions to make this past tryout season,” said Whyte. “We had a great turnout of players vying for a position, with all returning players except for one showing up. My team last year was so incredibly unified and I only needed to add a few other players to round out an already great squad.”

So were there any surprises from tryouts? Did any players make the team that Whyte didn’t expect to be at tryouts or make the team?

“We were extremely fortunate to have Tristan Hadley join our team,” noted Whyte. “This was a huge surprise to us as he is an incredible goaltender, a quiet leader, and a very intelligent and respectful young man.

“Tristan will be a huge part of our success this season.”

And while some coaches may see the 16U age group as a challenge, Whyte said that will not be the case with his Jr. Sun Devils group in 2016-17.

“To be honest, I am very lucky in that my typical challenge of getting all of the players to buy in is a non-factor,” explained Whyte. “Every player on this team wants what’s best for the team, and they are all showing a great deal of maturity right now. At this age however, there are the usual outside influences that can sway some players, such as driving, dating and school.”

As times evolve and society changes, coaching youth hockey also changes. Whyte is in total agreement with this assessment.

“Times have definitely changed from when I was playing youth hockey,” said Whyte. “Coaches have learned to develop players with a more positive approach, and not out of fear. Players must be held accountable. However, consistency in a coach’s methods and philosophies is definitely paramount.”

Based on what he knows about each player, Whyte is very excited to see what the 16U team can put together this coming season.

“My knowledge of our team and each individual player leaves me very optimistic of what they can accomplish,” said Whyte. “There are some very difficult challenges set up for them this year, and it will be rewarding watching them overcome, learn and grow.”

Whyte also noted how his expectations for the season are realistic.

“To me, a perfect season is around a .700 winning percentage,” said Whyte. “Every team needs to have the losses to learn from, but still have the majority of the season filled with successes.”

Touching on the brotherhood reference, Whyte said when he put the 16U team together, it seemed like all the pieces of the puzzle were a perfect fit as the season draws to its opening.

“Pretty much every player I have returning is a key player in their own way and that is why I wanted them back,” said Whyte. “I have goal scorers, playmakers and grinders that all do their jobs very well. The new players on our team have adjusted quite well so far and have caught up to speed with how we operate. To name any players that are better than the others does everyone on our team an injustice.

“Because hockey is a sport that prizes character above all else, hockey development means not just molding boys and girls into hockey players, but into scholars, good citizens and leaders as well.”

Photo/Terry McHugh

– Matt Mackinder