New Zealand Under-18 Women’s national team head coach, Michelle Cox, recently attended USA Hockey’s Girls 15 National Player Development Camp in St Cloud, Minnesota, after the NZIHF received an invitation to send a coach to participate in the programme.
Below is a report put together by Michelle about her experience at the camp.
The camp hosted 216 female players from around the United States, and saw players experience competitive, age-specific on-ice training (drills, small area games, competitions, etc.) and off-ice training (strength & conditioning, team building, mental skills, nutrition, classroom, etc.), as well as 82 staff members ranging from coaches and intern coaches, video and hockey ops, strength and conditioning trainers and evaluators.
A goalie camp consisting of the top 25 goalies in the country was held prior to the main camp which enabled specific goalie training at the highest levels with head coach and ADM Manager of Goaltending – Steve Thompson (who coincidentally is an old teammate of the AIHA’s Justin Daigle). What a wealth of knowledge he was! It was amazing to see in a few short days the bond that these young goalies formed and the family they became.
The arrival day for players was Saturday 9th July and saw 216 girls arrive from all over the United States. If you think about the number comparisons, New Zealand has just under 300 female players of all age groups – while the young players attending the camp were all born in 2007 (the programmes are targeted at specific age groups). We were straight into fitness testing both off ice and on ice – with some that would rival the Ice Blacks in their pull up counts…..these girls are athletes!
Players were split into 12 teams, with two coaches and an intern coach assigned to each team, and I was able to pick my own schedule. A couple of coaches had already reached out to me to invite me to be part of their teams, so I was able engross myself as much as possible into their schedules.
Intern coaches, who may have currently been college coaches but were new to the USA Hockey program, had development workshops and mentor coaches to help guide them throughout the camp and I took advantage of these workshops by attending as many as I could. Several new teaching concepts were discussed which I will endeavour to add into the New Zealand program in consultation with the NZIHF.
Jessica Scott (Hockey Operations US U18 National Team and Director of Hockey Operations at the University of Minnesota) took me for an outing into Minneapolis on one of the practice days. This included a full day of showing me the facilities at the University of Minnesota, including the arena built specifically for the women’s team and then onto Blaine where the National Sports Center is based for the USA women’s programme. I got a behind closed doors tour of the facilities that USA Hockey provides for their women’s teams and was shown some of the history behind the building of their culture; past and present.
After returning to St Cloud, I spent a good deal of time with Team Grey and Team Green (or Goblins as they liked to call themselves!). They were such a humble group of players, every single one of them that I spoke with was positive, polite and incredibly proud to be where they were. The final day consisted of playoff and finals. I coached with the green team on finals day and we came away in first place in our division.
Overall, the invitation and trip was an incredible experience and one that I’m very thankful to have been given. Some solid networking and friendships have resulted from this camp as well as offers to come back next year and beyond.
Thank you to Andy Mills (President, NZIHF) and Bob Mancini (USA Hockey) for giving me the opportunity, also Nick Bryant (Hockey Operations and Event Manager, Women’s National Team Program) and Heather Mannix (ADM Manager for Female Hockey) for making it a trip I will always remember and have very fond memories of.