Tahoe Hockey Academy set for Year 2, ‘in this for the long haul’
As the calendar flips to May, some hockey players, coaches and administrators hang up their skates for the spring or turn their focus to other sports.
The folks at the Tahoe Hockey Academy (THA), however, are already busy preparing for another strong season in the fall.
First on tap is the academy’s summer developmental training camps, as THA looks to begin the process of identifying its next high-end prospects.
“We’re not a traditional hockey program where we have that continuity of players coming up from 10U to 12U to 14U and so on,” THA head coach Michael Lewis said. “We’ve designed our program for those athletes who, once they have reached Bantams and Midgets, want that something extra in terms of development. With the ability to offer our student-athletes up to 10 hours of ice time each week, it can be a huge benefit for those players preparing themselves to make the jump when their youth career is over.
“We carry that philosophy into our summer camps, in which we train two hours of day on the ice developing the individual components of the game.”
Practices are over and ice times are wide-open, but you wouldn’t know that by looking at the Tahoe Hockey Academy. From its testing combines to training camp, THA is a year-round destination for player development.
“Our model is rooted in individual player development, and we’ve not only designed our program around that, but also our philosophy in how we conduct our testing combines and training camps,” said THA president Leo Fenn. “We’ve enjoyed great success in our first season on the ice, and I believe that can attributed to our players becoming better hockey players on an individual basis.”
As a first-year program, and California’s first residential hockey prep school, the long climb to become a recognized name in the California hockey community has had its challenges.
“Being so isolated, geographically speaking, from the areas associated with California hockey, has presented some hurdles, but it has also provided many positives,” THA associate coach Chris Collins said. “We train at high altitude, which provides a great environment to create peak performance, and due to our daily schedule, we’re able to offer things like yoga and sports medicine to our players that traditional programs aren’t able to provide for their athletes.”
Added Fenn: “We’re seeing our players head back to their respective states to compete in select camps, and to hear that their old teammates and families are seeing such a drastic improvement in their game speaks volumes to what we’re trying to accomplish here at THA.”
The work began in April, as the Tahoe Hockey Academy staff begins its search for new recruits. USA Hockey Youth Nationals, Globals and showcases throughout the country seem to be where the top players can be found, but that doesn’t necessarily mean those players fit the mold of a THA athlete.
“Like any coach, you want the best players possible, but we also want the best player for our specific program,” Lewis said. “We believe that it’s the player who truly wants to improve his game every day that will get the most out of the Tahoe Hockey Academy.”
The boys in Tahoe seem to have a good grasp on their off-season plans and a firm understanding on what it takes to make Year 2 a success.
“It’s all about relationships and introducing ourselves to the hockey community,” Fenn said. “We’re the new kids on the block, and we’re fully aware that we’ll need to prove ourselves each year in order to grow our academy, but we’re in this for the long haul and we look forward to speaking with those that are interested in our program.”
— Greg Ball