Select a vital cog in High Performance Training Day
It’s always a positive event when four competitive organizations come together for one common goal.
Back on Aug. 22, the top 14U age level female hockey players from around the state gathered in Colorado Springs for the 14U High Performance Training Day – a day of intense on-ice training, fitness testing and an off-ice presentation on the state of competitive girls hockey in Colorado.
Bringing this group of girls together was a collaborative effort on the part of the Colorado Select, Rocky Mountain Lady RoughRiders, Aspen Leafs and the Colorado Springs Tigers.
When all was said and done, all involved came away with a renewed sense of confidence and optimism.
“There’s a myth out there right now that girls have to leave the state of Colorado if they want to play college hockey and play with better players, but it’s simply not true,” Select 19U AAA head coach Karen Rickard said. “The day was about bringing these girls together so they can experience firsthand what they have to look forward to right here in Colorado. They need to see the skill level around them and get on the ice with experienced coaches who can help develop their talents so they don’t want to leave.
“The players and parents recognized that the future of high level girls hockey in Colorado is very bright and won’t go anywhere.”
A big component of the day was the presentation on the state of the girls game, the opportunities that exist locally, and how these players get from being a player in Colorado to earning spot on an NCAA Division I or Division III college roster.
“These kids have a huge advantage over me,” Rickard said. “When I played, college hockey did not exist for women (it didn’t become an NCAA sport until 1999), so I didn’t have anyone to turn to who had been through the recruiting process as a player. I had dads coaching me, which was okay, but I hope these girls recognize the resources they have right in front of them in coaches like Jordan Slavin of the Lady RoughRiders, Hannah Westbrook of the Colorado Select and myself.”
Rickard added that as many girls coaches have been NCAA athletes, they can pass on the knowledge on making the trek to college to the younger prospects.
“We’ve all played Division I college hockey and want to be resources for these kids and families throughout the state because we never had that,” said Rickard. “We want them to know we are here to help them not only develop their skills on the ice, but navigate through the NCAA recruiting process.”
The day also served as a mechanism to evaluate players for Team Colorado – a team made up of the top 17 players from each of the four Tier II girls programs in the state. These players will come together to compete at two Junior Women’s Hockey League (JWHL) showcases this fall in Boston and Buffalo, N.Y.
As it pertains to the JWHL, the purpose behind that initiative was to give those top players an opportunity to compete against their peers in other parts of the country in a Tier I setting. For most of these players, it will be their first taste of what the level of Tier I hockey is before they fully commit to playing on a Tier I team.
“The hope is that this group of players recognize the value of staying in Colorado and developing together over the next 4-5 years,” said Westbrook, the 14U AA head coach with the Select. “I’m looking forward to seeing these girls compete at the showcases and watching them learn and grow from the experience.”
The group effort last month was not only a positive step forward for girls hockey in Colorado, but the goal is to produce a Tier I program that’s competitive at USA Hockey Youth Nationals in the near future.
— Andy Atencio