No player left behind with Flagstaff Youth Hockey Association
The Flagstaff Youth Hockey Association operates in a town with a population one-third the size of Chandler.
Fielding one team is a feat, but this grassroots hockey organization is continuing to grow with two full rosters at 12U, and one full roster and a development squad at 10U.
“Several factors contribute to our association’s growth, especially our board of directors’ commitment to give every child who wants to play competitive hockey that opportunity,” said 2018-19 FYHA president Ryan Gearhart.
The 10U level is a gateway age for travel hockey, and FYHA welcomed 21 players to its 2018-19 tryouts in May. Faced with not quite enough players for two full teams, the FYHA board worked with coaches to identify an unorthodox solution – field a full team for AZYHL and a development squad that would enjoy the same ice touches per week and skills training, with scrimmages scheduled throughout the season and one tournament experience.
This year’s approach is a continuation of the 2017-18 board decision to field a thin 10U team for the AZYHL Blue division. With only nine players mid-August, the team was able to recruit two more house players to roster 11 players by the start of the season. That team lost every AZYHL regular-season game but improved exponentially throughout the year and won their last game of the AZYHL State Tournament against DYHA.
“It’s a moment I’ll never forget,” Gearhart said. “I think everyone in the rink was rooting for us in that game, including the DYHA team. Afterwards, parents from both teams lined the lobby and cheered for every player from each team. That’s how we want hockey to be.”
It remains to be seen whether FYHA will obtain the last-minute additions to field a full second 10U team for the 2018-19 AZYHL season. Regardless, the seven players currently rostered on the 10U development squad will enjoy a year of growth and experiencing competitive youth hockey, thanks to FYHA’s commitment to leave no player behind.
— Heather Gearhart
(Aug. 22, 2018)