Mission focusing on in-house program with solid, positive results
It’s not hard to connect the dots from a thriving in-house hockey program at any rink to a successful travel program that plays out of the same building.
The best players from the house league naturally will find themselves with opportunities to play tier hockey, and if they’re familiar with the program that plays on the same ice that they use, it’s often a no-brainer to advance their hockey development with that club.
Beyond that, though, the strength of an in-house program is critical to the long-term health of the sport, and every coach and administrator involved in youth hockey is motivated by helping grow the game.
For Mission AZ coach-in-chief Jeremy Goltz, the health of the in-house program at AZ Ice Peoria, his program’s home rink, is a major priority, and if that results in additional players being funneled into the Mission program, it’s a bonus.
Starting with last season, Goltz and his fellow coaches have put a heavy emphasis on helping support the in-house program. After seeing great results during the 2018-19 season, they elected to continue doing the same things this season.
“We got involved with it last year, with some of our coaching staff taking on the expanded roles of coaching these teams,” Goltz explained. “It has been a really, really good link between our program and the in-house program at the rink. We’re doing it again this year and the numbers of kids involved is great. It’s going very, very well.”
In addition to coaching a handful of selects teams made up of house-league all-stars, Goltz and fellow Mission coach Scott Farber are offering weekly clinics that typically attract about 30 in-house players. The clinics are held Wednesdays at 5:10 p.m., alternating weeks between players at the 8U and 10U levels with those at the 12U and 14U levels.
“We have a regular crew each week, and it’s kind of nice,” Goltz said. “It’s like an expanded practice for them, and we can actually build on some concepts. The parents are really positive about it, and the kids have a ton of fun with the clinics.
“We’re seeing massive growth and development with some of these kids, especially because they’re not on the ice as much as kids in travel programs.”
House-league players in the program are also given red and white Mission jerseys, which not only helps create aspirations for players who want to play at a higher level, but also builds loyalty for those players to come out and support Mission’s teams at every level.
“What we’re seeing with the selects and the house-league clinics is that this year, we have 15 new players in the Mission program as a result of these efforts,” Goltz said. “That’s almost 10 percent of our kids, and that’s not an insignificant number. Those kids came to the program as a direct result of what we’re doing. Kids are being exposed to us through the house clinics. You get to meet the families and get to know them.”
Goltz said he understands that the successes Mission has achieved since first starting more than a decade ago put the program on a pedestal, and that comes with an added sense of responsibility to be good stewards of the game and help it grow in all areas.
“Honestly, we didn’t get involved in it to bring in new players,” Goltz said. “That has been one of the results of it, which is great for our program, but there was a definite need in the rink for some of this expanded training, and we were the obvious people to fill that void. It’s extra work and planning for us, but at the end of the day, it’s really cool to see the impact it’s making.
“Scott and I are really enjoying it because we can see how enthusiastic the kids are about it. The kids are all really coachable and just eating up the extra attention, skill development and time on the ice.”
— Greg Ball
(Dec. 4, 2019)