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JR. SUN DEVILS

DYHA’s Lil’ Devils youth program showing immense growth By Matt Mackinder

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ockey continues to explode at the youth level in Arizona and a major part of that growth can be seen with the DYHA’s Lil’ Devils program. Designed for players that are Mite-aged and older who have completed the Little Howlers curriculum, the Lil’ Devils is picking up steam in Tempe, and parents could not be happier. One parent, Duncan Hardy, said his son Callum is having an “incredible time” with the Lil’ Devils. “I did not grow up with hockey and have never played, so we were flying blind a little bit, but through the information provided by Matt Shott with the Coyotes following Little Howlers, we were able to find out about Lil’ Devils,” Hardy said. “At first, I was concerned that my son would be a bit young and it might be too much for him to handle, but that has never been the case. Chris Sehring at DYHA described the program and how it is not competitive, but they really work with the kids based on their ability.” Hardy went on to say that seeing Callum’s face every time he’s on the ice makes him realize he made the right decision coming to the Lil’ Devils. “In terms of what makes it enjoyable for Callum and I, it is just great knowing that he is having fun,” said Hardy. “He always asks me, ‘Is there hockey tonight?’ We get to spend time together, I can see him improving a little bit

every day, he is never bored, and the coaches work so well with the kids. I know that it is a program that we will continue to be involved with until the coaches tell us that our son is ready to move on to the next level. That being said, we are not in a rush to move on. “Really, the whole program is about learning the basics and having fun with a great group of kids from all different levels, with an excellent group of coaches.”

The Lil’ Devils program is led by coaches Kayman Wong, Shon Hata and Sehring, while Adam Keefe, George Bellas, Rob MacGregor, Mike Beery and Alan Lee also help out during the on-ice sessions. Sehring said being involved with the Lil’ Devils is very uplifting. “The kids are what really makes the program special,” he said. “As coaches, we get to be involved with a player starting to learn to love the game and to me, that is the

most gratifying part. We try to make sure all our players come off the ice with big smiles and wet heads. “Every time I see a player be able to do something that they have been trying to do for some time, I smile. It’s that life lesson that you keep trying until you succeed that I love seeing happen.” Wong noted that the Lil’ Devils program is more than hockey, too. “I think the program continues to grow due to the sense of community that the program brings,” Wong said. “What makes me smile is definitely seeing the kids laugh on the ice. When they score a goal or make a great pass or complete a new skill, that smile and sometimes laugh is contagious.” For Hata, like Sehring and Wong, seeing the kids enjoy getting on the ice with a yearning to get better is what it’s all about. “Player are provided an outlet where they can comfortably and continually work on their individual skills and have opportunities to interact with each other and learn to compete with those of similar skill set,” Hata said. “These Lil’ Devils players are constantly moving and never stop. This is what makes the Lil’ Devils program exciting for our players. “At the end of the day, above all, it is the parents who help our program grow by entrusting us with their players to becoming a good citizen and great hockey players.”

DYHAHockey.org

IN A DEVILISH MOOD What are the benefits to letting our kids play hockey? A s a father of three boys who all play hockey, I often find myself wondering, “why hockey?” Before I can even answer that question, I need to contemplate, “why not hockey?” I would have to say that the two main reaMcCaughey sons against letting your child play this wonderful sport are cost and the violent nature of the sport. The costs of getting your child into hockey differ from region to region and the reasons for this are plenty but to keep it simple, hockey is played on a specialized surface and every time you want to work on your craft, you have to go to an ice rink and pay for that ice. The required equipment you need to play this sport can also have you contemplating taking out a second loan on your house. Equipment prices have skyrocketed since I was a kid, but quality and durability have improved as well. That is great for us adults who don’t have to buy new

skates every year or so because our feet are getting bigger. Personally, I purchased two of these new one-piece hockey sticks six years ago and am still using them. They are 100 flex and I am just flat-out not strong enough to break one. The bottom line is that with the costs of the ice, equipment, travel, league overhead, hockey is an expensive sport! While there are debates as to which sport is more violent – hockey or football – let’s just concede that the risk of getting injured playing hockey is up there. This is, of course, due to the fact that hockey is a full-contact sport that involves the players skating at high speeds on an extremely hard surface enclosed on all sides by walls. It is like a giant cage match with completely different rules. I have been saying for years that as our athletes have only been getting bigger, faster, and stronger, the rink dimensions have not changed. This has changed the game at the higher levels of hockey and is not that big of a deal for our children. USA Hockey is doing its best at trying to make the game as safe as possible, too. So then, why do we let our children play this sport? I am not going to speak for every parent out there, I will just give you two of my many reasons. 1. Exercise. Another thing I have been saying for years is that our kids these days are growing up in

the video game era. They do not want to go out and play anymore. Hockey is one of the best cardiovascular games you can play. In this sport, you alternate between exercise and rest and pushes them to their limits. Let’s face it – our kids don’t have the best diets and this form of interval training burns a ton of calories to help offset their food choices. Regularly playing hockey can develop a child’s gross motor skills and improve eye-hand coordination. It also requires strength, something that can benefit a child in whatever activity he or she pursues. 2. Character. Hockey is a team sport, and children who play learn the value of working with others. They figure out how to rely on teammates and understand that cooperation is key to success. These are valuable life lessons that children take with them into adulthood and help them with whatever career path they choose. Hockey also helps children learn how to deal with the ups and downs that they will inevitably face in their adult world. While talent is important, hockey, in my opinion, is the sport in which teamwork can outdo talent, more so than any other sport. Those lessons are invaluable and hard to put a price tag on. Why hockey? Because hockey is the best life lesson-teaching sport on the planet, in my opinion.

Brad McCaughey is the hockey director and coach-in-chief for DYHA. 10

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