Romanchuk helps spur Jr. Sharks’ girls growth
Back when Rod Romanchuk was playing college hockey for the University of Wisconsin in the late 1970s, he never would have thought the Badgers would ice a women’s team.
And he certainly wouldn’t have foreseen nearly 100 U.S. colleges competing in NCAA women’s hockey nearly 40 years later.
That’s part of the reason Romanchuk is so proud of his work with the San Jose Jr. Sharks’ girls program over the last decade and a half. The organization has produced approximately 15 NCAA Division I college players and 35 more who have played at the Division III level.
“Through the years, I’ve made a lot of connections with college coaches and have come to really understand what it takes for girls to play at the collegiate level,” Romanchuk said. “I think I can bring that knowledge base to the girls program. We have a lot of girls who we think can play in college, and I love to help them get there.”
Romanchuk, who played professionally after his career as a winger with the Badgers, got involved in the youth game when his kids began playing.
Four of his children came through the Jr. Sharks program, and all of them played college hockey – sons David at Renesslear Polytechnic Institute and Peter at the University of Illinois, and daughters Paula at Princeton University and Lexi at Providence College. The two youngest – Peter and Lexi – are still in uniform.
He first started working with the Jr. Sharks in 2000, and while he’s fulfilled a number of roles with the girls and boys teams, he’s spent most of his time helping build the girls program.
When he started, participation was limited and the girls teams often competed against boys teams, but that’s changed; the 2014-15 season features eight Jr. Sharks girls travel teams for players from 8U to 19U.
Romanchuk currently coaches the girls 14U AAA team.
“When I first started, I’d watch the girls play and it was frustrating because they were very, very talented, but they’d play the minimum number of games to qualify for districts because a lot of the girls were playing on boys teams,” Romanchuk recalled. “So I wanted to help make it cool to play girls hockey, to help build the program.”
Through a steady commitment to coaching individual teams and dedicating plenty of time to helping the program grow, he’s done just that.
“We have more girls playing now than ever before,” Romanchuk said. “We’ve significantly expanded the number of players in the girls program, which is great.”
Romanchuk laughed when discussing the differences between coaching girls and boys. He explained that, in his experience, girls are often more coachable than boys because they’ll listen and follow instructions the first time, rather than trying something three different ways before finally accepting a coach’s instruction.
He also noted that girls and boys respond to constructive criticism and critique differently, and he’s learned to alter his coaching methods to communicate as effectively as possible with different players.
All in all, he said it’s been a terrific experience, and he’s enjoyed continuing to coach even as his children have aged out of youth hockey. Having seen the opportunities that exist for girls to play at the next level – opportunities that weren’t available a couple decades ago – he’s eager to help.
“I’ve always done this for the girls,” Romanchuk said. “I think in California, it’s hard to make it at the collegiate level because we don’t live in an area where there’s a girls team at every high school.
“Through the years, I’ve gotten to know the girls and their parents, and it’s really my way of giving back. I hope we can continue to help the Jr. Sharks program grow and flourish.”
– Greg Ball