For any hockey association, there typically isn’t one secret to success. But for New Hampshire’s Hanover Hockey Association, one thing does stand out.
According to Girls’ Program Director Dan French, it’s the association’s Development Program.
“I look at it as our most important program,” French said. “It’s simply the most important program we have for the girls. That’s our feeder program.”
The program is designed for girls ages 8 through 13. French said that in Hanover’s part of New England, girls typically become interested in hockey at an older age than boys. But it’s never too late.
“Those players have become very successful members of our travel teams and our very successful high school team,” French said.
“From the beginning of Hanover hockey, one of our missions has been to develop players for the high school team,” French said. “If you live in the Hanover district and play in the HHA, you can be a teammate of somebody’s from age five through 18.”
In 1991, Hanover High School fielded the first publicly funded high school girls’ team in the country. HHA alumni have frequently gone on to become Hanover Marauders.
“Our girls’ team has won just about every state championship since it was sanctioned by the New Hampshire Interscholastic Association,” French said. “We want to develop girls not just so they can win championships, but more importantly, to experience being a Marauder and playing for coach Johnny Dodd.
“We’ve got some really good players but it’s about team first. Between the culture and the tradition, it’s one of the greatest experiences girls can have in their lifetime. They’ll develop friendships that will last a lifetime.”
In French’s eyes, all the on- and off-ice successes revert back to the Development Program.
“The Development Program incorporates more of a team feel,” French said. “We work on skills and fun games. There is more of a team element to it, which fits the age better.
“In Hanover, these girls are all heading to high school so they could be teenagers for the next eight years because they enter the program around age 10.”
Besides the Development Program, HHA this season consists of 10U, 12/13U White, 12U Green and 14U Green teams.
In addition, HHA also has a try-hockey program called Learn to Play Wild.
“The Learn to Play Hockey Wild is for boys and girls ages 4 to 8,” French said. “It’s a typical, learn-to-play [co-ed] program. We set it up so it has the same practice times every week with short sessions. We try to reduce every barrier for a new family.”
This program is especially attractive to girls who don’t wish to play with boys at older ages.
“That’s where the Development Program takes over,” French said. “That’s where new girls can enter hockey and do it in a girls-only environment.”
Another important aspect of the HHA is its adherence to a sound practice-to-game ratio.
Travel teams, for example, have two practices and one skill session from early October through mid-December and two team practices per week afterwards. One exception is for the 14Us, who may have three practices per week.
In this way and more, the HHA follows USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which launched formally in 2009. But according to French, the association has been following these principles for some time.
“We were using the ADM before it was called ‘ADM,’” French said. “It’s just common sense from a development standpoint. The ADM has added greater resources and information to the program in terms of how to develop kids at the different age groups.
“The better you are, the better the game is and the more fun it is to play. You can have a lot of practices and it can still be a lot of fun.”
But there’s more to the HHA than learning skills and having fun.
“Hockey is a vehicle to teach kids real life lessons and to learn from success and adversity,” French said. “The important stuff I learned when I look back on my hockey career includes commitment, working with others, how to deal with failure and how to get better.
“But the more the team is together, the more fun it is.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc