RED DEER – Members of Alberta’s hockey community were challenged to take a serious look at what the future looks like, and to remember that the future needs to focus on the children in their organization.
The challenge came from Dr. Stephen Norris, Consultant Performance and Development with Hockey Canada. He was the keynote speaker on Friday to kick off Hockey Alberta’s Hockey Conference and Annual General Meeting at the Sheraton Hotel in Red Deer.
Norris told the approximately 150 people in attendance that it is their job to step beyond the gossip that tends to dominate their time, and to overcome the existing practices and common ways of doing things to help ensure the future success and existence of the sport. He cited the statistic that hockey in Canada sees a 50 per cent drop in player numbers at each age level.
"We need to think even more creatively in how we are going to keep this sport alive in this province," said Norris. "If you add up all the years of experience in hockey in this room, we should be able to solve anything. But we don’t allow ourselves to."
Norris said that the focus must be on what is best for the players, the children who are interested in playing hockey.
"When kids start playing hockey in Initiation, we have no idea where they’re going in their lives," Norris said. "If we do our jobs well, when they graduate from minor hockey, if they say they learned a lot, and had a great time, you will have done your job. The most precious commodity we have in this commodity-rich province is our children."
The focus of the 2016 Hockey Conference is “Building Your Team”. The goal is help those in attendance develop techniques to:
- Influence people to embrace change and strive towards being an organization that provides positive experiences for all participants
- Educate on the reasons why change is beneficial by considering age/level appropriate programming
- Implement a structure that enables the organization to establish and operate successful programs.
"As you soon as you step up and say, ’I want to be involved,’ there is a responsibility," said Norris.
Following the keynote presentation, Norris was joined in a round-table panel discussion by Keith Hansen, retired volleyball coach at Red Deer College and member of the Alberta Sports Hall of Fame; Lyn Radford, Board Chair, 2019 Canada Winter Games; and Rob Litwinski, Executive Director, Hockey Alberta.
During the round-table discussion, the panel talked about some of the key aspects that resonated for them from Norris’ comments in their respective areas of athletics.
Radford talked about the challenges that can exist in putting together a successful administrative team, and the importance of ensuring diversity and a variety of personalities, philosophies and opinions.
Hansen outlined some of the developments that occurred in the world of volleyball at younger age divisions to help overall skill development for all 12 players on a team. He suggested that to reduce the number of players leaving the sport hockey needed to take a new look at how training occurs for athletes at all ages.
And Litwinski reminded everyone that real change has to be inspired locally, it is not something that can be mandated by a provincial body.
Norris previously served as the Executive Vice-President and Chief Sport Officer at Winsport Canada. He played a key role as consultant to the ‘Own The Podium’ program high performance/technical group in the five years prior to the Vancouver 2010 Olympic Games. And he was one of the five founding members and contributors to the ‘Canadian Sport For Life’ movement concerning athlete/participant development and the concept of ‘physical literacy’ within Canada.
The Hockey Conference runs through Saturday, with morning and afternoon sessions focused on guiding and assisting Hockey Operations and Hockey Development personnel to better provide positive services and experiences to the players, and other hockey stakeholders, in their associations.
Other events on Saturday include the annual Hockey Alberta Awards luncheon, and the Annual General Meeting.