AHU’s Wilson looking to take program’s goaltenders to next level
Trevor Wilson was a goaltender during his playing days and hopes to pass on his knowledge of the position to the same players at the Arizona Hockey Union.
Wilson joined AHU as its first goalie director in 2021-22 and is back again for 2022-23 to take the proverbial next step.
“Following junior hockey, I returned home to attend Arizona State University where I played for the club hockey team during the 2012-13 season,” said Wilson. “I was quickly approached by the team’s PA announcer who was seeking goalie assistance for his son at the Arizona Hockey Union. I happily agreed and found myself on the ice that following week working with goalies on the Pee Wee team. That same session, I was approached by the Squirt’s head coach to assist with their goalies, too.
“Before I knew it, I was working with multiple teams at the Union and continued to support throughout the years until I was brought in as the first goalie director this past year.”
Wilson said his coaching background goes as far back as his teenage years to when he was just 15.
“I have always been passionate about the game, and I would volunteer to demonstrate drills and assist coaches with traveling camps to help better my own skills,” Wilson said. “Ice time was valuable here in Arizona, and I wanted as much time to practice as possible. What first was about focusing on my skills soon turned into a passion for developing others. When I turned 17, I was recruited to play for Lake Forest Academy in Chicago under their head coach Darrin Madeley. It was during my time at LFA where my true passion for coaching started to present itself. Madeley, a former NHL goalie, became the team’s head coach following his playing career and I believe working under him allowed me to discover this side of the game. At the time, he also served as the goalie coach for the local youth hockey team, the Vernon Hills Ice Dogs. I had approached him with interest in coaching and he immediately allowed me to assist. Before I knew it, I had taken over for him as the Ice Dogs goalie coach where I heavily focused on Mites and Squirts.
“Overall, my coaching style is very reminiscent of what I learned from Madeley and includes what I wish I would have had growing up as a young goalie in Arizona. I want to provide these kids with a more personal and skill-heavy experience that was not available to me in my youth.”
During the 2021-22 campaign, Wilson noticed a huge improvement in the AHU netminders at all levels.
“Goalie-specific coaching had not been viewed as a necessity during my youth hockey career in Arizona,” explained Wilson. “When I began overseeing the program this past season, I wanted to be part of the change on that opinion and provide a better experience to these kids that was not available when I was younger. Growing up, you could choose to pay for goalie-specific private lessons, or you simply went without. I fell into the latter category.
“This season, I wanted to make the goalies more of a focus and make goalie coaching a priority at AHU. These efforts included bringing in goalie-specific coaches to team practices and reserving a weekly ice slot dedicated solely to goalie skills. The weekly goalie-only sessions are a pretty incredible offering from AHU. We have a dedicated staff of four goalie coaches on the ice, each running their own station targeting a different skill. This allowed each goalie in the program to gain exposure to all goalie coaches and created a sense of community amongst our goalies at all ages.”
As the older goalies improve with the Union, Wilson said that stroke of confidence trickles down to the younger divisions.
“I have also noticed this sense of community has bled over into the kids themselves with the older goalies becoming role models for the younger goalies and a natural classroom has been created on the ice,” Wilson noted. “I have noticed at times that our Mite and Squirt goalies will intently view the 16U and 18U goalies completing their drills and will listen to the directions of coaches more closely. I’ve noticed the younger kids will attempt to replicate those directions and efforts when completing their own repetitions. It has been amazing to watch the growth. I believe this type of visual education has gone much farther than we anticipated and has created a drive in the younger kids that did not exist prior.
“AHU has also allowed me to be innovative in practice and has supported my passion in exploring modern products on the market. I spend quite a bit of time researching goalie coaches around the country and when I see a product I believe our kids will enjoy, I reach out to AHU with a plan on enacting. They’ve been very open to my ideas, and you can see that translate to the teams on the ice. Every skills session is new, fun, and unique while we discover what the best methods are in training the next generation of goalies. We’ve had a lot of fun and we plan to bring this sense of innovation and community into the next few seasons.”
Now with a dedicated plan in place, Wilson is expecting the AHU goalies to get better and better each time they hit the ice this season.
“This season will focus on pushing our goalies to become engaged students of the game,” said Wilson. “We want to encourage them to be forward-thinking on improving their own skills on their own time. To accomplish this, myself and the other AHU goalie coaches will work on filling out report cards a couple times during the season to serve as real-time performance reviews. Ultimately, we want the goalies to know the specific areas they need improvement on so they can work on them during down time at practice or when our goalie coaches are not present on the ice. As we know ice time is valuable, being able to practice as a goalie on your own time is so important.
“We hope that our feedback in real-time will allow them to actively work on their weaknesses with an independent attitude.”
Outside of working with AHU, Wilson stays on the ice on his own time, playing in a men’s league two times a week and also helping start a Senior A team in Arizona that would help feed the need for a competitive adult team in the Valley.
“I have found that the talent in Arizona is widespread and there is a huge market that exists here,” Wilson said. “I recently returned from Jackson, Wyo., with the Arizona Desert Dogs where we played two games in front of 1200-plus fans, live-band entertainment, and an all-around red-carpet experience. We happened to win against the local Jackson Hole Moose Senior A-level team, and while we served as entertainment for the night, we also realized there is more potential that exists here than meets the eye.
“I continue to support all levels of hockey whether by coaching – or playing.”
Photos provided by Trevor Wilson
— Matt Mackinder
(August 24, 2022)