Girls roller hockey growing across all youth divisions in California
Youth roller hockey has long been a coed sport but a recent uptick in participation numbers by girls has prompted the creation of multiple gender specific divisions for female participants.
For instance, the North American Roller Hockey Championship Series (NARCh) has created a separate Girls Division apart from its traditional Women’s Division.
Perhaps not surprisingly, the growth in girls roller hockey mimics the growth in girls ice hockey. The two sports form a mutual symbiosis that has resulted in a win-win situation for both.
“With regard to the growth of girls playing roller hockey, I would attribute it to a combination of the ice hockey player transitioning to play roller hockey in the summer in combination with the rinks in California developing programs to start female players at a young age in the sport,” explained Alex Morrison, who started the San Diego Jr. Gulls girls ice hockey program and now serves as head coach for the the United States National Junior Women’s Inline Hockey Team.
“The line that people may want to draw defining someone as an ‘ice’ or ‘roller’ player is getting more and more blurry as this progress continues, as many girls are developing in both sports concurrently, often playing roller hockey all summer after ice hockey season in the winter – and sometimes back and forth during the same season.”
With the uptick in numbers, there has been a corresponding increase in the quality of play.
Team USA finished with the silver medal at last summer’s World Roller Games in Barcelona driven primarily by a cast from the Golden State and its neighbors (eight of the 15 rostered players were from California, Nevada and Arizona).
“The Californians on the team all contributed during the tournament and showed people all over the world that the West Coast of the United States can produce some great talent,” Morrison said.
Eleven nations were represented in the Junior Women’s Division in Barcelona. Spain defeated the Untied States 2-0 in the gold medal game. Canada captured the bronze medal.
Both of Team USA’s losses in the international inline showcase were to Spain.
Alexandria Tillemans (Bishop) and Lilie Pogu (Corona) both scored goals in the the Americans’ 6-1 semifinal win over Finland while Marisa Trevino (San Jose) posted a .957 save percentage in the championship game setback to the Spaniards.
Californians accounted for nine goals in the team’s five games.
The NARCh Finals has definitely been a catalyst in the growth in girls inline hockey.
“Two years ago, I approached Daryn (NARCh president Daryn Goodwin) about having a girls 14U division at NARCh, as I had a core group of girls (ice hockey players) who I was introducing to the sport, along with a couple girls who had played for years,” Morrison said. “This team (Hi-Chew, pictured) played at the NARCh Finals in 2018 along with teams put together thanks in large part to Emily Doran communicating with the established clubs like Militia in Huntington Beach, Bulldogs in Corona, and her own group, the Jets in West Covina, and a group from Northern California as well.
“That spark helped us build momentum into the next year, where we ended up putting together a second Hi-Chew team in this Girls 14U division that we had made.”
The Hi-Chew teams excelled, winning gold medals in the Girls 14U and Women’s Gold divisions at last year’s NARCh West Coast Finals.
“This year we were planning on building on all of that momentum, creating two new divisions to allow for even more girls to play — a 12U girls division and an 18U girls division,” Morrison noted. “In addition, the Women’s Division, which previously allowed 14-year-olds to play, is now 16-and -up, since the number of players interested has increased to the point that we could spotlight these girls in their own group.”
Morrison said the roller-oriented Hi-Chew program is looking at fielding two teams in the 18U division and one team in the 12U division this season.
Morrison said playing ice hockey and roller hockey is a two-way street.
“There are a lot of girls in California who were introduced to hockey on the roller side and moved over to ice hockey after a short time,” Morrison said. “What I have been trying to do is to build awareness in the community that these athletes can actually improve their skills in their ice hockey game and avoid burnout by enjoying roller hockey during the off-season.
“Having time and space to build their puck possession skills and vision will help take their game to the next level, and the time spent away from the ice rink playing a different sport helps a player in coming back for the next season refreshed and renewed, ready to take on the challenges that lie ahead.”
— Phillip Brents
(Aug. 12, 2020)