Optimism abounds as Tahoe Prep opens 2019-20 season
Fall is always the best time of year for the student-athletes, coaches and administrators at Tahoe Prep Academy, and it’s not just because a chill in the air has returned to most mornings and evenings and snow will soon be falling on an almost daily basis.
Autumn signals the beginning of hockey season, and after all, the sport is a passion for everyone involved with the program and the main focus of their everyday existence.
With the 2019-20 academic year and hockey season off and running, Tahoe Prep’s student-athletes are as busy as ever, dedicating most of their time to their education and development as hockey players. Year 4 of the growing program’s existence is on tap, and the forward momentum gained in those first three years has been nothing short of remarkable.
Needless to say, expectations are higher than ever before.
Players from both the prep and varsity teams are now spending at least five days a week on the ice, and when they don’t have skates on their feet, they’re taking other steps to advance their careers – like working out in spin classes led by coach Mike Lewis and working with former Division I college athletic trainers at the Barton Center for Excellence.
“I think during the first couple of weeks of the hockey season, we’re able to open the boys’ eyes to the realization that to get good at something, it takes a lot of work and dedication,” said prep team head coach Chris Collins. “The reward for the players and for us as coaches is when we see all that hard work pay off in terms of their improvement. We’re already starting to see that, and we know we’ll witness even more of that in the coming weeks and months.
“We have a lot of new players this year, and as a way of getting them all on the same page as far as our goals and how we approach teaching them the game, we implemented a lot of team-building activities. I think those things that we have done have really pulled them together, and it definitely showed in their first scrimmage games. The chemistry was there.”
Tahoe’s prep team has a busy schedule of games on their slate in both the North American Prospects Hockey League and the East Coast Elite League. Facing the type of top-notch competition they will see in those two leagues can only help Tahoe’s players get better and do so rapidly.
“Our first NAPHL tournament is this month, and I think the way our kids play as individuals and as a team will give us a good feel as coaches how well this group is comprehending what we are teaching them,” Collins said.
Meanwhile, Tahoe’s varsity squad, coached by Leo Fenn, is preparing for a full schedule playing in both the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League and the San Jose Sharks High School Hockey League. The schedule is definitely a grind, but all the players knew what they were signing up for, and they’re eager to be on the ice as much as possible – in practices and games.
Collins said this year’s prep schedule puts that squad up against consistently high-performing opponents like Boston Advantage, a program that has a strong record of placing players with Division I college teams.
“All of our players are responding to what we’re teaching them, and they’re working really hard,” Collins said, adding that taking on the new role of the team’s head coach this season carries responsibilities and duties that extend far beyond the ice. “It’s fun. It has been really rewarding, but it’s more about the mentorship and life lessons they are learning than the X’s and O’s of how the game is played.”
— Greg Ball
(Sept. 26, 2019)