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Jr. Sharks celebrate extraordinary ‘16-17 on-ice success

 

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It’s been a banner year for the San Jose Jr. Sharks.

Literally.

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Led by two national championship-winning teams, the Jr. Sharks are enjoying the aftermath of one of the most successful seasons in the organization’s history. The Jr. Sharks’ 2016-17 campaign saw champions at the state, regional and national levels across all age groups within the organization.

“It certainly has to be the best in terms of winning since I’ve been here,” said Jr. Sharks director of player development Mike Janda. “It’s encouraging to see our teams have success. Is winning everything for us? Not at all. If we aren’t winning championships, it’s not as if we are going to change what we are doing, because we’ve been doing things the same way for five years and now we’re starting to see the results that we are looking for.”

While the 19U AA girls team and the youth sled hockey team were both crowned USA Hockey national champions, the Jr. Sharks also experienced success in the Northern California Minor Hockey Association (Nor Cal) and in the state championships. The Jr. Sharks brought home a state championship banner with a win in 13U AAA boys, while the 18U AAA boys and the 16U AA boys each finished second. The Bantam A boys won their division in Nor Cal and the performance of the Squirt teams gives Janda a lot of enthusiasm for the future of that age group, as out of the four teams at 2006 and 2007 birth years, there were two Norcal titles and a second-place finish.

“For the younger teams to have success means that we are doing things the right way at that level and developing the skills that will put us where we need to be down the road,” said Janda. “Not only are we having success in California, but these teams are having success at tournaments across North America as well.”

The crown jewel for the organization remains the 19U AA girls national championship win.

“This shows the girls in Northern California that they have a landing spot to help them get to the next level,” said Janda. “For me, the biggest win this year was committing five girls to college. That’s more important than winning nationals to me. Is winning nationals awesome? Of course, and it’s great to win, and it’s a product of doing things the right way. But the more encouraging thing is now we show our 10Us, 12Us, and 14Us that they can stay in San Jose, play 19U, have success, and we can get you to college, which is the ultimate goal.”

Obviously, Janda takes pride in what the 28 Jr. Sharks teams accomplished this year.

“The future is bright for us,” said Janda. “I don’t want to take all the credit – a lot of credit goes to our coaching staff. One of the areas I’ve worked really hard in is not only finding the right coaches, but putting those coaches in a position to be successful. When you put coaches at a level where they can communicate effectively with players and get a positive response, that’s where the success comes in. I didn’t have any influence on most of these teams – the bulk of the success and the applause needs to go to these coaches for the effort they have put in, and the way they have bought in to the American Development Model and the skill development.”

Just don’t expect increased success to change or have much effect on the way the Jr. Sharks are currently developing their players.

“You don’t make changes and then see results a year later,” said Janda. “It takes time for things to implement and cultures to be created, and I think the culture now is one where it’s a place a lot of people want to be, and us having success just proves we’re doing things the right way.

“Family is a good word to use, because that’s the environment we’ve tried to create here. The teams have all bought in to doing the same thing and expectations have already been set, top to bottom.”

— John B. Spigott