Mission AZ remains pillar of consistency, has ‘great continuity from the bottom to the top’
Jeremy Goltz, the director of hockey operations for the Mission AZ youth hockey program in the Phoenix suburbs, likes to say that the program is consistently boring.
What he means by that is that there is little drama, the coaching staff remains consistent year after year, kids return to the program and he and his staff stick to their player development program without any significant changes.
“We don’t change, but we’re always trying to make things better,” Goltz said with his trademark enthusiasm. “I think we have a good recipe, and our rate of returning players from year to year really shows that. But that being said, we are always looking for ways to enhance our program and what we offer.”
With that in mind, Goltz has added a few wrinkles to the Mission program for the 2018-19 season.
The in-house program has been expanded to serve more kids, and for the first time, in-house players are wearing Mission jerseys on the ice. Goltz and his staff are also placing a heavier emphasis than ever before on improving players’ skating technique – and using some unconventional methods.
New developments this season include a weekly power skating session for each team as well as a figure skating class. Every other week, each squad will spend 45 minutes on the ice with figure skating and power skating coach Crystal Roe working on movements that they’re not used to and working new muscles. The idea is that the different form of skating gives hockey players a better feel for their edges and moving in all directions on the ice – not just forward and backward.
“It’s something that I did in my youth hockey programs growing up, and it has always been something I wanted to incorporate because I think it makes better skaters,” Goltz said. “Kids are taking advantage of it, and you can definitely see how much they’re improving.
“We’re getting kids comfortable on their edges, because skating is the foundation for everything in hockey. During our valuable and limited ice time with these kids, as coaches sometimes we’re working on 10 different things, and the skating aspect kind of gets overlooked. Instead, we take an hour or so out of the week and put the sticks and pucks away to work on skating.”
Goltz is the head coach for six of Mission’s eight teams this season, and he feels fortunate to have an experienced and loyal coaching staff where everyone is pulling on the same end of the rope to work with their approximately 150 players. The staff includes Paul Miller, Paul Bauer, Brandon Hummell, Adam Brill, Chris Carouchi, Jared Rademacher, Scott Farber, Doug Cannon, Darrell Martin, Terry Tessmer, Craig Morton, Larry Gibson (goalies) and Roe (skating).
Cannon is in his 10th season coaching with Mission, and this season is an assistant coach with the 16U White team and the 14U White squad while also helping with the 16U Red team. His son, Edward, played for Mission and now is a defenseman at Eastern Michigan University, and he has developed a fierce loyalty to the program over the last decade.
Chris Carouchi is a Mission alumnus, and as the program continues to evolve in its life cycle, having former players return to coach its teams will only make the Mission program stronger.
“It’s really exciting to see the young guys come back and give to the program that they believe in,” Cannon said.
Farber is an assistant coach with the Bantam Red team and is the head coach of the Bantam White squad in his eighth season with Mission. His son, Dylan, plays for the Bantam White team, and the elder Farber has plenty of confidence in the program not only for his own son but for other players seeking to get the most out of their abilities.
“We’ve always had a great return rate, especially at the older levels, which really speaks to the strength of the Mission program,” Farber said. “We really take a seamless approach from year to year, with a coaching staff that’s a cohesive unit and helps develop the fundamentals of the game appropriately at each age level. It’s the same philosophy across the board from the bottom to the top.
“While coaching hockey is what we do, so many other great things come out of that. We’re also teaching discipline, hard work, respect, sportsmanship, accountability and responsibility. We do everything we can to help players move onto the next levels of the game if they’re so inclined, but we also pay attention to the players who simply love the game – and in the end, hopefully, we’ve instilled good character in all of them.”
Morton is working with the 16U Red and White teams in his return to coaching after a number of years away. He said he wanted to join on with Mission because of the strong reputation Goltz has earned for developing a quality program.
“There’s great continuity from the bottom to the top,” Morton said. “From the Mites up to the 18s, we run similar plays. There’s a nice thread throughout the program and great consistency from team to team as far as what they focus on when on the ice.”
In addition to the cohesive coaching staff, there’s also a great sense of connection from one level to the next – kids from the younger teams often are in the stands rooting on the Bantam and Midget teams, and the older players do the same for the younger kids. Morton mentioned the great sense of community amongst Mission families with kids at all levels.
There is even a large contingent of in-house players who regularly attend Mission games wearing their red and white sweaters.
“We have always had a seamless approach in our organization, but now we are close to taking it to the next level and to the entire Peoria rink,” Goltz said.
In addition, Mission’s Special Edition program for special needs hockey players is entering its second season in 2018-19.
— Greg Ball
(Nov. 7, 2018)