Wildcats’ developmental focus extends beyond ice
Every time the coaches and administrators from Wildcats Hockey Club set foot on the ice, they have more than hockey on their minds.
That’s because the Wildcats have made a conscious effort to ensure their focus is as much about creating a positive environment and teaching life lessons as it is about winning championships and producing top-level hockey players.
“It’s not that we don’t care about hockey as much as other clubs, or that we’re not focused on building elite players and winning games,” said Ben Frank, the Wildcats’ president. “We put a tremendous amount of effort toward achieving those goals, and we put some very experienced coaches in position to help our players and teams reach those objectives.
“It’s just that we believe the purpose of our club is to be about more than those things.”
That purpose, Frank said, is to serve as a positive influence in the lives of the kids and families who choose to join their program. Their mission is to employ all the productive lessons that can be learned through participation in sports – leadership, teamwork, hard work, sacrifice and many more – to develop adults who are productive members of society.
And while that might not seem like a unique concept, the Wildcats make that mission a part of their daily discussions on the ice, in conversations with families and in staff meetings. The intense focus on their bigger-picture goals helps guarantee they never forget what they’re trying to achieve.
“We ensure that all our coaches are great role models for our players and take that responsibility very seriously,” said Paul Esdale, the Wildcats’ director of hockey. “We’ll always do what’s best for our players while using the game of hockey as a vehicle to teach life lessons.
“It’s our responsibility to give the players a positive experience, increase their passion for the game, facilitate their dreams and lead them to be positive contributors to the sport, their family, community, school and beyond.”
Frank said that the Wildcats’ mission statement helps guide every decision they make; it impacts their scheduling of games and practice time, how much time they spend focusing on different skills and concepts on the ice and what they talk about in their off-ice sessions with different ages of players.
There have been times when Frank and his fellow coaches might have thought about entering teams in certain tournaments, but reconsidered when they realized that the level of competition – or perhaps the amount of travel involved – didn’t align with their organizational philosophy.
“Those values have been part of what we’re about for a long time,” Frank said, “but it’s been important for us to really define them and start taking steps to ensure that we only do things that align with our values, and we’re not going to do things that don’t – even if it seems like everyone else is doing it.”
The cornerstones of the Wildcats program are their designation as a USA Hockey Model Association and their partnership with the Positive Coaching Alliance.
The upward direction of the program and its daily focus on its core values has been so noticeable, in fact, that Frank and his fellow coaches have received considerable positive feedback from parents.
“Wildcats hockey has been life changing for our son!” one parent wrote in an e-mail. “The Wildcats program is more than just hockey; it’s about building character and teaching life skills.”
Frank couldn’t agree more.
“The individual athletes and their families mean everything to us,” he said. “We want their experience to transcend hockey and affect their lives in a memorable and impactful way.”
– Greg Ball