AHAI Affiliate Leadership Conference to Go On, Virtually if Need Be

The AHAI annual meeting later this month will be entirely virtual

By Greg Bates, Special to AHAI – For the last three years, the AHAI Affiliate Leadership Conference (AALC) has been a valuable learning tool for affiliate group leaders all throughout Illinois.

It’s a chance for everyone to meet face to face to socialize while figuring out what is working well in each organization and what can use a little work.

This year, that face-to-face interaction might not be an option. However, AHAI will still have its regularly scheduled leadership conference along with an annual meeting.

With the coronavirus pandemic sweeping across Illinois and the country, AHAI has decided to run its annual meeting entirely electronically. The annual meeting, which includes electing board of directors and voting on bylaws, will take place on May 30.

The second portion of the annual conference is the AHAI Affiliate Leadership Conference (AALC). It is scheduled to be held at the Westin Chicago Northwest in Itasca on June 27. Start times have yet to be determined for both the annual meeting and leadership conference.

“AHAI is in the process right now of planning for both outcomes,” AALC Co-Chair Jim Clare said. “Whether we can do the Leadership Conference portion in person or if we have to do it electronically, scheduling the breakout sessions can be done via Zoom or YouTube Live or some technology we can use to get the membership together and still disseminate the information that we want.”

Illinois is currently under a stay-at-home order through May 30. Clare said it probably won’t be determined if the leadership conference will be held in person or switched to video conferencing until after that lockdown date passes.

“We want to give them the safest and most enjoyable environment that we possibly can, but now we have to mix in what we’re permitted to do by governmental and medical authorities,” AHAI President Michael Barrett said. “It’s a tough environment, but we’re making the best of it. We’re going to do everything we possibly can to return to the closest thing to normalcy that we’ve enjoyed for many years.”

Still running the mandated annual meeting along with a leadership conference is something the folks at AHAI know is important. It’s a means to give players, parents and coaches a little peace of mind that hockey will be returning at some point.

“Even if we’re able to do a Zoom meeting, just to reach out to all the members and have everyone on the same page to know some of the new guidelines that are going into place,” AHAI annual meeting co-chair Keri Zschach said. “Plus, anyone new taking over a position, a lot of organizations change over their boards right before the [meeting]. Just to get that feedback so they know who we are from AHAI as well, but then cover the topics that they struggle with on a day to day basis when they’re running a club.”

The leadership conference will once again feature a series of breakout sessions to cover a variety of topics, which include girls’ hockey, high school hockey, club communications, on-ice officials, club administration, suspension and reviews, Tier I, II and III hockey discussions and a hockey directors’ roundtable.

“I think the leadership conference is a great conduit for people to share those little nuggets of information among themselves so they can make it better for everybody and themselves,” Barrett said.

There is also a town hall portion of the conference in which everyone in attendance is invited.

“There’s the new policy on background screenings for this year and then a section on diversity and inclusion with anticipated guest speakers to discuss how that plays in the hockey world,” Clare said.

This will mark the fourth year the enhanced leadership conference will run. The previous years have been valuable learning tools for everyone involved.

AHAI received plenty of feedback after last year’s conference, and Clare made sure to implement as many items of interest from the members during this year’s meeting.

“There’s a couple of things specifically this year around Tier III/House Hockey to make them more inclusive in the process of what we’re talking about at the conference,” Clare said. “Then the club administrative piece is always reviewed and updated. It’s one of the more popular sessions that we have. Thirdly, a lot of conversation and proposed changes to how high school hockey’s run. Those three are added or enhanced. The fourth one, the hockey directors’ roundtable, is something new. It gives us a chance to put the hockey directors in a room together and really dig into the mechanics and what’s going on at the rinks and how these clubs are promoting their programs, developing their players and have more of a roundtable discussion rather than a presentation.”

According to Clare, AHAI is in the process of forming a reopening committee that will look at variety of aspects: working with rinks, attracting new players and how to handle opening of season, especially if there are still restrictions on group gathering sizes.

“The slogan around the country is, ‘We’re all in this together.’ So, as a hockey community, we’re certainly all in this together as well,” Clare said. “We all have to work towards a common goal of what it looks like when we’re allowed to get back in the rinks. How are we going to help the rinks because some of them will be struggling? How are we going to help clubs that need help? How are we going to find new players to make sure that we’re increasing the base of the foundation that we lost here for the last three, four months?”

During this tough time, Barrett wants to offer reassurance to members of AHAI.

“Ultimately, what we all want to convey from AHAI out to the entire hockey community, parents and otherwise, is we’re working as hard as we possibly can and as expeditiously as we possibly can to ensure that the game starts back up again under the safest parameters,” Barrett said. “That’s an arduous task, but we have a really good group of people on the board and experts on the outside that are helping us all towards that goal.”

Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.

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