New Perspectives to Be Offered at AHAI Affiliate Leadership Conference

Annual conference will aim to provide more new ideas for affiliates to take back home

By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI

In search of some ideas to revamp AHAI’s annual meeting, Jim Clare traveled to Minnesota two years ago to sit in on the State of Hockey’s yearly conference.

Clare, who also used his home state of Massachusetts for guidance, came away with plenty of valuable ideas that he’s since implemented in Illinois.

This will mark the third year the new and improved AHAI Affiliate Leadership Conference (AALC) will take place. The event will be held at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca on Saturday, June 1 from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m.

Clare loves the direction the AALC has gone recently as leaders of affiliate groups throughout the state gather for one day to learn effective ways to run their organization and mingle with those who share their same position at other clubs.

“It seems to be getting better each year as we learn more and get feedback from the community,” said Clare, the AALC Committee Chairman. “We’re trying to structure it and make sure the content is valuable to them. … I think the program we have laid out is the best we’ve laid out since we did this restructuring. I think that’s just lessons learned from previous ones.”

AHAI is no longer running an annual meeting where its representatives briefly discuss items with attendees and then there is voting to figure out the board of directors. It’s so much more. This year’s conference is highlighted by interactive breakout sessions that can be relatable to every affiliate leader as well as speakers who will discuss timely, relevant topics.

“It’s at that tipping edge where you really have to make it interesting because you don’t want to be stale,” said AHAI Executive Director John Dunne. “At one point, we were just having our annual meeting because we had to and I wouldn’t want to attend it if I didn’t have to.”

AHAI receives a lot of feedback each year after its conference. Attendees are able to fill out surveys and Dunne stressed each one is thoroughly reviewed in the hopes of improving for the following year.

“Most of them we probably agree with whether it would be the speakers themselves aren’t good or the topic didn’t have enough time or something along those lines,” Dunne said. “Our difficulty is it’s mostly volunteers. They have a long season and we’re asking them to spend a summer Saturday basically away from their personal lives to do more hockey.”

New pieces to this year’s conference include having a few guest speakers as opposed to one keynote orator. Joe Terrasi from the Positive Coaching Alliance is slated to do a presentation and Tom Slaird, who is the new programs committee chair for Minnesota Hockey, will also give a talk. Slaird’s main discussion will center on how leaders can deal with difficult parents, players and coaches.

“I think having some voices outside of our little world hopefully will open up some of the eyes of the folks in the room and be a positive influence on the group going forward,” Clare said.

One thing AHAI has never done before at its leadership conference is bringing in a president from another state. George Atkinson from the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association (MAHA) will be on hand to share his vast knowledge and answer questions.

“We’re going to put him into a couple of different breakout sessions,” Clare said. “Folks are always talking about other states and what are they doing, why we do things our way. This will be a nice twist for them.”

Clare noted a couple of the breakout sessions Atkinson will attend is one just for hockey directors and another will relate to youth hockey for Tier II and III.

The conference will get underway with some administrative items to be reviewed and comments from USA Hockey President Jim Smith and AHAI President Mike Barrett. Terrasi will then speak from the Positive Coaching Alliance, followed by the first breakout sessions. Attendees will congregate back into the main room to hear from Slaird with Minnesota Hockey. The leaders in attendance will then get to hit a final set of breakout sessions.

With over 200 attendees the last few years at the conference, numbers have been strong. AHAI organizers are hoping for similar numbers this year.

Dunne hopes attendees take away plenty of valuable points.

“We want them to take away useful information on how to day in and day out manage their membership and clubs,” Dunne said.

Clare is stressing two key points for the affiliate leaders.

“One is obviously the content of the event,” Clare said. “We want them to take one or two things that they can take back and use. But more importantly the interaction with the community that folks don’t get to see.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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