First-year Titans adding to booming growth of Arizona youth hockey
So much is happening these days with the Arizona Titans, that one has to remember that the youth program only came to fruition this past summer.
Housed at AZ Ice Arcadia, the Titans have teams ranging this season from 6U to 18U and a high-caliber coaching staff.
Titans program director Justin Rogers said the last few months have been nothing short of a whirlwind.
“The growth has been absolutely amazing for being a first-year program,” said Rogers, who also coaches the Titans’ 11U and 13U teams and serves as the AZ Ice Arcadia hockey director. “I don’t think any of our coaches and parents could have predicted this outcome in such a short span of time. We are very excited to see what the future brings for us.”
The Titans name stemmed from Arcadia High School, whose mascot is also the Titans. Jim Rogers (AZ Ice Arcadia owner) and Justin Rogers are both alumni, so it just seemed fitting.
Eventually, the Titans want to be able to offer high school hockey as well as Tier II hockey within the program.
“Rebecca Trudeau has been a tremendous asset in helping to get the Titans off to a great inaugural season,” said Rogers. “She stepped up as our program administrator, lead team manager, gear and player organization, and so much more. Her years of experience as an involved hockey parent around the Valley helped reshape VOSHA in the Titans’ first season.
“Roxanne Sarratt took on the role as our registrar and has been a large component in ensuring that coaching credentials and all rosters are in order.
“Moriah Hernandez, who is also the general manager for AZ Ice Arcadia, has been a big part of this year as well. She handles the ice schedule for VOSHA, making sure all the pieces fit together, especially with GCU hockey in its first year at Arcadia. Moriah has helped to ensure that the Titans and Arcadia are able to create a working relationship that benefits both parties.”
And growing the game in Arizona, especially at the youth level, has been a trend that gets bigger and bigger every year. The Titans certainly fit into that growth spurt.
“The goal of the Arizona Titans is to help grow the game across the Valley,” Rogers said. “In conjunction with AZ Ice Arcadia, we strive to help players develop while also developing new hockey players. Titans coaches and kids helped participate in Try Hockey for Free Day in November in an effort to do just that. The Titans are hoping to develop hockey on a local level so players don’t have to consider out-of-state options for better competition. We are also here to develop all of our players to be ready for the Tier I level, junior hockey and college hockey.”
In looking at the Titans teams this season, Rogers noted that it’s hard to pinpoint what gives him the most gratification with the entire program.
“The best part of this season is seeing some players who normally would have been overlooked to play travel not only have the opportunity to play travel this season, but to excel,” said Rogers. “It’s one of the most gratifying feelings to see that type of development and know that all the hard work, all the trying times in getting this program off the ground so quickly, and even those obstacles that are still to come, are worth it. There’s nothing like being able to give kids the opportunity to develop, to excel, especially when they didn’t believe they could do it themselves.”
For players’ parents to take a leap of faith and join a new program, Rogers said the Titans have a special group of families in the organization.
“We are so grateful for all of our families who believed in us this first year,” said Rogers. “I couldn’t be happier of how positive and supportive our families have been so far in our inaugural season. This organization has been a group effort, and all of the volunteering and suggestions have made all the difference. Titans parents are the most trusting and supportive parents. They put their trust in myself and the coaching staff from the very beginning and haven’t questioned it since. That and the outpouring of support for the Titans is all I can ask for from parents.
“We definitely lucked out with the Titans families.”
On the coaching end of the spectrum, that group is also a cherished component of the Titans.
“I have coached all levels of hockey from beginners to Tier I travel and have never been with a closer-knit group of coaches,” Rogers said. “We all have similar mindsets and coaching styles, so it is just so easy to get along. There’s a consensus across the coaching staff in what the end goal is, and that’s for our players to be the best they can be by the end of the season. It’s just a cohesive coaching staff that all works in unison, and I couldn’t be prouder of that. We have become a very close network of friends from 6U all the way to our 18U. We like to help out with other teams when running station-based practices and it has just been a blast to have all the coaches we ended up with.”
Mike Hensdell is the Titans’ director of player development and 16U coach, while the rest of the coaching staff includes Jim Rogers (6U), Garrett Stephenson (8U, 9U), Steve Majercak (12U), Jarred Smith (14U) and Rob Kerns (18U).
Looking ahead, once springtime comes, what will make this a successful first season for the Titans?
“For the Titans, a successful season is development for all of our players and smiling faces,” said Rogers. “I believe the most important thing in any youth hockey player’s season is to make sure they are having fun even if they are winning or losing. All of our kids have come so far already and with their hard-working and positive attitudes, I don’t think we will have any issues achieving our goal.”
Rogers also noted that plans are already in place for the 2019-20 season to build on the wonderful start in 2018-19.
“We are looking to add a couple of teams next season, which means we will be expanding our coaching staff,” Rogers said. “We are also looking to strengthen our partnership with the GCU Lopes that share AZ Ice Arcadia as our home rink. We are also planning on adding a couple hockey-specific tools to our gym upstairs with the possibility of shooting lanes, stickhandling stations and passing blocks. All in all, the Titans are looking to have a bigger and better season each year.
“I believe we finally have the right formula to have VOSHA be successful. We are focusing on growing our 6U and 8U teams to be the biggest part of our association. With a bigger base to develop, it will be easier in the future to fill teams in older age groups. We also have a fantastic coaching staff that encourages and motivates our players to be the absolute best players they can be. While we focus on development first, we always make sure our players are having fun during the season, which gives us a friendly and fun atmosphere for all families to be a part of.”
Photos/Gil Gabo Photography
— Matt Mackinder
(Jan. 9, 2019)