The Twin Bridges Lightning fit the official definition of what makes a USA Hockey Model Association, so it was appropriate the Lightning officially earned that status this past July.
“We’ve committed to long-term development,” said Lightning President Craig Duffy. “Our numbers have grown as we’ve learned about the American Development Model and communicated that information to our stakeholders. There is a direct correlation between the ADM and participation at various levels.”
Based in Troy, Illinois, near where the old paddlewheelers navigated the Mississippi River, Twin Bridges has moved full-steam ahead with player development.
“We implemented the ADM with help from Bob Mancini and Ken Martel from USA Hockey,” explained Duffy. “We’ve worked their suggestions into our program, and with the success we’ve had has come more participation, not only from players, but also with coaches and parents who want to be coaches in our association.”
The Lightning brings those prospective coaches and parents up to speed with parent orientation classes. These classes are a new component of the Lightning program that communicates the effectiveness of the ADM.
“Previously we would educate parents during the first couple of practices,” Duffy said. “But now we feel that dedicating a night or two per week prior to the season is beneficial. We can address a lot of items right off the bat instead of during the season, and we can share with them how the ADM is being applied.
“The parents like that because now they can watch their kids on the ice (without missing any important information). Early in the season, we’re going to have a meeting about what to look for regarding 6U and 8U hockey. We’re also trying to create a bond and more social activities within our association.”
As an example, Duffy notes what’s transpired with the Kirkwood Youth Hockey Association.
“We point across the river (in Missouri) at Kirkwood and show their success,” he said. “They can see what that USA Hockey Model Association is like as well as the atmosphere, which is fun.
“Kids want to come back to the rink. That’s an important goal.”
When Duffy mentioned “our numbers have grown,” he almost needed a calculator to add the number of teams Twin Bridges will field this coming season.
“We’re growing at our lower age levels for sure,” he said.
Twin Bridges plans to field four 6U teams, six 8U teams, and five 10U teams. That’s compared with one at each age level, from 6U to 18U, last season.
Twin Bridges draws players from north St. Louis County in Missouri and Madison County in Illinois and is a part of the Missouri Amateur Ice Hockey Association.
“We’re trying to build a foundation in order to move forward and become a destination for kids,” Duffy said. “We want the kids in Illinois on our side and we also want Missouri kids.”
One notable way Twin Bridges fosters that goal is by holding free learn-to-play programs.
“This is the only free learn-to-play program in the St. Louis area,” Duffy said. “We hold three learn-to-play sessions during the year. We see a large demand in the fall that trends toward 80 to 100 participants. It’s gotten so large that we’ve increased ice time from one hour to 1 1/2 hours.
“Our fall and winter learn-to-play programs are off the charts. As soon as the Blues start training camp, we start getting emails asking when we’re going to begin our learn-to-play registration for the fall session.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.