“Where do hockey players come from…where do they go?”
This is a very good question…where do the 18,000 players in Illinois come from? Primarily they come from Chicago area families who want their children to be active and healthy through playing sports. Some have a family history rooted in ice hockey, some parents are inspired by the Olympic Games or the incredible success of the Blackhawks these past 5 years! In Illinois these are all factors drawing parents and their kids to the sport.
When do kids come to play? Ice hockey is unique in that the kids generally have to start young – 10 and under. In both court and turf sports the inherent ability to walk or run or stand upright will allow you access to those sports at most any age. Ice hockey is different. You must be skilled enough to skate – at some level of proficiency – that is generally why hockey players come from that 10 and under group. By the time kids are 13 entering high school and want to play the “greatest game on earth”, it can be very difficult to break in. The acquisition of new players is generally kids 5 through 10, our largest age group…some 7,000 players.
Where do they go? In Illinois the numbers of players are growing larger until they are 10 years old. 40% of ALL hockey players, 7,000 in Illinois, are under 10 years old. But as they get older the kids find other things to do: specialize in only one sport or other interests. When kids get to High School there is another precipitous change in players as about 35% have left the game, again, to do things that compete for their interest. After kids enter high school if they play hockey, they usually continue to play throughout their High School careers…about 5800 players.
The Challenge! How do we expose the game to new players – and how do we keep their interest? Better known in some circles as Acquisition and Retention. USA Hockey has offered to each individual hockey club, the “2 and 2 Challenge”. Simply, this means get 2 more NEW players than you did last year – GROWTH – and keep 2 more players in your program that you did last year – RETENTION. Sounds simple enough. If every club could do that the players in Illinois would swell by more than 1,000 players! But this is not so easily accomplished.
This past year there were several clubs in Illinois that met the Challenge. Please see 2 and 2 Challenge Article for complete list of clubs. Kudos and thanks to these clubs for their efforts. This is USA Hockey and AHAI’s future.
Why 2 and 2 Challenge?
In Illinois in 2008-2009:
- 71% of all 4 year olds did not return as 5 year olds
- 51% of all 5 year olds did not return as 6 year olds
- 34% of all 6 year olds did not return as 7 year olds
- 24% of all 7 year olds did not return as 8 year olds
We were losing 45% of all players 4-8 years old! We needed to make our sport more kid friendly and FUN!
In short those clubs were able to find ways to make hockey more fun for the players and meet the “2 and 2 Challenge”. Basically, if the kids are having fun, the parents will sign the kids up for hockey programs and teams. One enormous key to making our game more fun has been the American Development Model, or ADM. But that is a subject for another day……