Grizzly Hockey off and skating
Post Independent Staff
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colorado – It’s a rite of winter, a signal that hockey season is in full swing.
Droves of pint-sized skaters buzz around the Glenwood Springs Community Center ice rink, slapping the puck around in perhaps the biggest event of the year for the Glenwood Springs Youth Hockey Association (GSYHA).
It’s the Mite Jamboree, and it’s coming to the local rink on Dec. 3. More than 150 8-and-under players are expected for the annual tournament.
“It’s a fun event,” said TK Kwiatkowski, GSYHA’s director. “The Mite Jamboree is one of those things where people go, ‘Wow, this is in Glenwood Springs?’ It’s probably our premier event.”
And the association’s main event boasts an informative undercard this year. The Jamboree will be preceded by a USA Hockey American Development Model (ADM) coaching clinic.
GSYHA, which is also known as Grizzly Hockey, is entering its fourth season of operation under the ADM, which aims to avoid hockey burnout and provide a fairer playing field for all young athletes.
“We want to give all players the same opportunities,” Kwiatkowski said. “The ‘old-school’ mentality of placing the ‘best players’ on ‘all-star’ teams at age 9 or 10, which in essence can indirectly give them better training, more ice time, etc., doesn’t develop everyone equally.”
It also tends to weed out kids who might develop into great players given the same opportunities, Kwiatkowski added.
“One thing that stuck in my mind at the national symposium was, ‘There is no reason to try to pick your star athletes before puberty,'” he relayed.
ADM also stresses age-appropriate training in the form of smaller playing surfaces for younger players.
“We downsize the nets, downsize the rinks, downsize game play,” Kwiatkowski said. “It’s giving these kids a chance to develop like they would as a pro, but at their size physically.”
Kwiatkowski used Little League baseball, which utilizes smaller diamonds and pitching distances for its younger players, as an analogy to describe the ADM approach.
The Dec. 3 clinic will feature a U8 ADM practice from 9:45-10:45 a.m., a U10 ADM practice from 10:45-11:45 a.m. and a parent and coaches classroom clinic from noon-1 p.m. Kwiatkowski said there’s a possibility former professional players will be on hand for the clinic.
Grizzly Hockey is thriving. Numbers are right around par with recent years.
“The association’s strong right now,” Kwiatkowski said.
And, with the addition of a girls program, it’s getting even stronger.
GSYHA’s girls previously only had the option of playing alongside the boys.
“In the past, maybe half the girls are psyched to go out and play with the boys,” Kwiatkowski said. “Once you make it all girls, other girls start coming out. It’s not a sexist thing, but there’s a perception that hockey’s a guys’ sport.”
For more information on the GSYHA, visit http://www.grizzlyhockey.com.
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