New Hockey Parents (Athens Youth Hockey Association | Athens Ohio | Bird Arena)
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New Hockey Parents
New Hockey Parents
Welcome to the Athens Youth Hockey Association! Whether you have already enrolled your child in a learn to skate or learn to play program, or you are just still researching, the AYHA hopes this website will be a good starting point for your introduction into youth hockey. Being a parent of a hockey player can be enjoyable experience, especially watching your child develop and gain athletic and positive life experiences at the rink, but we know you have many questions. Please consider the following frequently asked questions, and do not hesitate to reach out to an Association member or coach for more information.
How Do We Start Playing Youth Hockey?
There are many pathways for young boys and girls to start playing hockey in Athens. Some children first take learn to skate classes, while other jump right into the deep-end and join a youth league with no prior experience. However, there is a typical route that many youth players and their parents follow for getting on the ice.
Some children first start skating at the age of three, while others begin when they are teenagers. Whatever pathway you choose, the AYHA believes making skating and hockey fun for children is a great way to build their enthusiasm and confidence. Additionally, the Learn to Play Hockey program can be a very affordable way for children to try hockey at a low cost, thanks to the generous support of the Columbus Blue Jackets. Explore our Learn to Skate / Learn to Play as well as our Hockey Season pages for more information on each of the above steps!
What Age Division Will My Child Be In?
The AYHA follows standard youth divisions for its teams, which are open to both boys and girls for all age groups. For each age division, the AYHA utilizes elements of the American Development Model, which is a USA Hockey program for enhancing skill development based on age-appropriate drills at practice. Typically, each age division will have two practices a week with games on select weekends.
6U – player ages 5 and 6. This age level focuses on teaching the basics of skating, hockey, sportsmanship, and most importantly – having fun.
8U – player ages 7 and 8. Like the 6U, this age level also focuses on teaching the basics. Scrimmages are introduced, and youth players may have the opportunity to play games at Bird Arena against visiting 8U hockey teams, typically on half-rink ice (similar to how little league baseball is played on smaller fields). Games are non-checking.
10U – player ages 9 and 10. Practices continue to teach basic skills, while also introducing how to play different positions on the ice. Typically, parents can choose for their child to be part of a House Team (no travel for games) or a Travel Team (limited regional travel for games). Games are non-checking.
12U – player ages 11 and 12. Games are non-checking.
14U – player ages 13 and 14. Checking begins at this age level.
High School – players ages 15 through 18. Includes home and away games with a junior varsity as well as a varsity squad.
How Do I Dress My Hockey Player?
The AYHA and many other youth hockey associations acknowledge that many parents may know more about quantum particle physics than how to help their child put on their hockey gear for the first time. While the Association has provided links below to videos for equipment and skates, parents of all age groups are strongly encouraged to teach their children to dress themselves as young as possible (though you may still be required to help tighten those skate laces). Try practicing a few times at home before your first trip to the rink; learning how to pack your child’s bag efficiently and familiarizing yourself with the equipment can make your first trip to Bird Arena that much more enjoyable. Leave enough time not only to travel to Bird Ice Arena, but also enough time for your child to get their equipment on so they are ready to hit the ice the moment practice starts. Equally as important as getting dressed is airing out all of that equipment; if you leave equipment in a bag for a few days after a practice or game, or your nose will regret it. Seriously.
My Child Is on the Ice! Now What?
When your son or daughter first steps out on the ice for a learn to skate or learn to play hockey program, you’ll find yourself with a little time on your hands as you sit on the bleachers. While scrolling through social media on a phone has become a common way to pass the time, the AYHA is happy to suggest a few alternatives.
First, dress warmly. Short sleeves, shorts, or even open-toed shoes might fly at Bird Ice Arena in October, but come November the rink gets really chilly. Consider bringing a blanket or cushion, as the bleachers are metal and cold.
Second, if you’re not familiar with hockey practices, consider watching some short videos on the American Development Model for 8U, 10U, and 12U players on the AYHA Player Development page; you’ll see a lot of similarities with your child on the ice as they learn to play. Remember to be patient and realistic as your child is introduced to skating and hockey. At first, there is a lot of falling down and ice-walking, but over a relatively short period of time, children can become proficient skaters. Each child learns and develops at a different rate, but that makes little difference on a child’s overall progress over the course of a season.
Third, introduce yourself to other hockey parents. Every parent at Bird Ice Arena either currently is or was a first timer, and you can get a tremendous amount of information from other families. Also, get to know your coaches, and do not be afraid to ask questions about your child’s time on the ice, skills development, and expectations for the season.
Next, consider volunteering. The AYHA is a wholly volunteer organization, with the overwhelming majority of Association members, coaches, and officials being parents of current hockey players. Whether it is a small role or a larger one, your Team Manager can make suggestions on how your efforts can make a big difference in your child’s season.
Finally, have fun. Enjoy the excitement on your child’s face when they succeed, and offer supportive encouragement if they need it.