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Tahoe Hockey Academy a well-rounded mix of school, hockey

 

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If it’s February, that must mean that youth hockey teams across the country are chasing down playoff spots as their 2016-17 seasons begins to wind down.

Similar to many of those teams, the Tahoe Hockey Academy (THA) is gearing up for its big push in the Anaheim Ducks High School Hockey League playoffs, but as the last whistle sounds and seasons to come to an end, the lives of the student-athletes at THA go on.

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“We’re a hockey academy that incorporates hockey development, academics and the social dynamic where our players attend the local high school,” Tahoe Hockey Academy president Leo Fenn said. “Our students are able to continually train like world-class athletes without sacrificing the academic portion or the high school social interactivity that traveling Tier I and Tier II players sometimes have to give up.”

A look into the daily lives of a Tahoe Hockey Academy player reveals a rather regimented schedule.

“To be a Tahoe Hockey Academy athlete requires a certain amount of discipline and work ethic,” head coach Mike Lewis said. “We’re spending upwards of two hours on the ice every day and also incorporating training from an NCAA strength and conditioning coach in the gym. Add in hours of academics, social life and travel hockey, and it’s safe to say that success comes from those that truly gravitate toward a structured environment.”

With THA being an academy dedicated to hockey development, it’s easy for outsiders to wonder if it’s “all hockey, all the time” on the Tahoe campus, but a glimpse into daily life there shows a well-rounded mix of fun, relaxation and just being a normal high school student.

“I like being able to have social interaction with girls and other guys outside of our team,” THA assistant captain Jordan Finney said. “It resembles a normal life where we’re able to break up the training with other high school classes.”

Add in the beautiful scenery of Lake Tahoe and you’ll find the team snowboarding on the slopes on off days or taking in movies, watching other high school athletic contests or attending dances.

“I like being around more people of different backgrounds outside of hockey,” THA forward Matt Odom said.

Judging by the success of the first-year program, it would seem that the Tahoe Hockey Academy model is producing great results.

“I really like how we focus on development so much,” THA center Jared Shuter said. “I believe the coaches want to see their players go far in their careers, whether that’s in hockey or just in life in general.”

That sentiment isn’t taken lightly, as the THA administration’s mission is to develop young men, improved hockey players and well-rounded academic students.

“We have student-athletes from all across the country and from varying levels of hockey,” associate coach Chris Collins said. “We strive to improve each player’s ability to compete by building confidence and composure on the ice as well as off the ice.”

With the Tahoe Hockey Academy being the first residential prep school dedicated to hockey in California, there’s no question the school is blazing a trail into uncharted territory.

“We knew going into this that we would be sole entity in our state forging this path,” Fenn said. “Our students are doing an amazing job representing our program on and off the ice, and it shows in the way we’ve been received by our peers throughout the country.”

The school year is in full swing, and so is the academic and athletic program in South Lake Tahoe.

Whether in school, on the ice or on the road, the young men who call THA home continue to lead a well-rounded life that is reflected in their development.

Photo/Joe Naber

— Greg Ball