By Ross Forman – When high school students graduate, they say goodbye to their friends, teachers, and a four-year ride that they never will forget – with a new journey about to begin.
They don’t have to say goodbye to hockey.
Life after high school absolutely can be filled with hockey – and playing isn’t the only option.
The AHAI Youth & Girls College Night: Opportunities in Hockey After High School is set for Monday, September 27 at the Chicago Westin Northwest Hotel in Itasca, starting at 7 p.m.
The long-running event has evolved from just a College Night, focused on playing at the collegiate level, to a multitude of opportunities in hockey after graduating from high school.
“The event has been very successful,” said AHAI’s Coach-in-Chief, Jim Clare. “Kids want to stay involved in the game and we want them to stay involved in the game.
“There’s nothing more rewarding than seeing someone at the College Night and they are now coaching or officiating, giving back to the game.
“It’s very gratifying seeing coaches or referees in their 20s or 30s who I knew as local players.”
Case in point, three who Clare coached at the Sabres years ago. All went to the College Night during their youth playing days and are now local coaches at Tier II programs.
Many local coaches have followed that path, including some of the area’s top high school coaches. Tim Benz, for instance, played at Glenview and then for Glenbrook South High School. He is now the head coach at Saint Viator, a perennial power.
College Night will go into depth on coaching opportunities and how to get involved.
Another option after high school is officiating.
“Officiating is a great way to stay involved in the game and also earn some money,” Clare said.
IHOA representatives will be present at College Night to expand on officiating opportunities, starting with registration.
Many local referees were local players who simply transitioned to officiating after high school.
Players don’t need to retire their equipment after graduating from college – playing is still an option, of course. In fact, there are many options. College Night will enlighten attendees on the multitude of playing options, including juniors, various levels of the college game, including club hockey, prep schools, and more.
College Night will detail the structure of playing beyond high school – with speakers attending from a variety of Division III schools, ACHA programs, and more.
Financial information on playing in college also will be discussed.
After the seminar, several area colleges will be present with an informational table to discuss their options. Many schools will be represented by players and/or coaches.
“Parents, not just the students, will get to hear about the journey beyond high school, the financial commitment, the time commitment, etc.,” Clare said.
College Night is geared for students 14-18.
Other hockey options post-high school that will be presented at College Night including hockey operations, teaching Learn-to-Skate classes, and more.
“Students don’t have to hang up their skates,” after graduating from high school. “There are many options to consider, and we really hope they do,” Clare said.
The annual Girls College Night has grown and expanded over the past few years. Sure, there are fewer post-high school options for girls, but no reason to leave the sport.
The Girls College Night will hit on coaching and officiating, and discuss the importance of nutrition at the college level, plus injury prevention and rehabilitation.
“We want to introduce the girls to options (playing) in the ACHA,” said Anita Lichterman, AHAI Girls’ Chair.
“We want to show the girls a variety of options in the game after high school, not just playing, such as coaching, officiating, volunteering, (and working) behind the scenes.”
IHOA will have female officials present.
There also will be former college players and coaches to discuss their paths.
“We give them an overview,” of life after high school, where hockey still has many options, Lichterman said.
Officiating is certainly a solid option, as USA Hockey and IHOA are always looking for more female officials.
Laurie Markowski is one of many locals who have stayed active in the game after high school.
She played in the Chicagoland area at both Tier I and Tier II, and then ACHA Division 1 hockey at Northern Michigan University. After finishing at NMU, she started coaching – and has spent the past 10 years coaching girls hockey at the 12U-19U levels on both the Tier II and Tier I side.
Markowski is now the Girls Director for the Chicago Bruins.
“She has done a phenomenal job with her girls’ program,” Lichterman said.
Lichterman added, “We really want to empower these girls at the College Night with knowledge of what’s out there – and it goes beyond just being a player. We also want to empower them with self-confidence to go after whatever their goal, their dream is.”