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Wild Looks to Grow Youth Program with USA Hockey

The Maine Wild has found success with its junior team, but now Hockey Director Mike Tenney is setting is sights on something else: a flourishing youth program.

The plan is to start with slow growth, such as another season of a U18 team, U16 team, and then grow into Squirt and PeeWee teams as well.

"Ultimately, I want our youth program to be a competitive travel option for kids in the Southern Maine area who want to learn to play the game the right way from experienced coaches who have a vested interest in young people," said Tenney.

His vision, he said, is for hockey players to have fun at the youth level but also run a successful program.

"The goal is to have travel hockey squirt through midget and then into juniors, but I think that small, manageable growth is an attainable goal and growing into a bigger program," he said. "Sometimes when they grow too quickly the programs can lose sight of what they originally wanted to do."

Tenney hopes the youth hockey program becomes a place where players, parents and coaches all feel like they're all family.

"I want everyone to know everyone. I want the juniors to know the squirts and the squirts to know the midegets.  I want it to be a big family and fun atmosphere," he said. "That atmosphere breeds success and the way we do that is do a bit of work recruiting high level coaches."

Tenney said in many organizations coaches are actually players' parents but he hopes his program will separate that and have non-parent coaches.

"In other countries, and in places like Russia, the best coaches coach the youngest kids," he said. "And I'm sure I will get on the ice with all of our levels at some point but I want to bring in coaches that want to continue to learn as coaches and help develop our hockey players on and off the ice."

Tenney is hoping to attract quality coaching and for those coaches to get involved in the youngest levels.

The program is already seeing growth as this season the Wild had a split season Midget U18 team.

"It's small manageable growth for us, and next year we're hoping to have U18 split season midgets and also a U16 split season midget team at both the Tier III and Tier IV level," said Tenney. "So that would be four split-season midget teams. If we could have a squirt and a peewee team, that would be the icing on the cake."

The youth organization is in the process of being approved through USA Hockey, which he hopes will go through in the spring. The Wild's junior team is going through a similar process to get approved through USA Hockey.

"We won't have confirmation until the spring but hopefully USA Hockey sees are are taking these steps and they'll approve what we're offering," he said. 

In the mean time, Tenney is looking for a coaching staff.
"I am looking for energetic, self-motivated coaches," he said. "It's the type of thing that the more you do, the more you get out of it," he said. "We are looking for guys who want to be around hockey all the time and want to be on the ice for skills and want to do extra sessions or dry land sessions. It's a hockey first mentality."

posted 12/16/2014
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