THA breaking away from the traditional hockey academy
Hockey in California has come a long way since it was first played in the state many years ago.
Countless players from the Golden State who cut their teeth playing for youth teams here have gone on to compete in junior leagues, colleges and minor pro organizations, with a handful advancing to the NHL.
It’s a long, and arduous road to achieve such a feat, though and for every player drafted in any particular league, there are numerous players who get passed over for not being ready come draft or exposure time.
The Tahoe Hockey Academy (THA) aims to address that issue offering a new development alternative for young players.
“The Tahoe Prep Hockey Academy is a new concept when you consider the traditional model of development that most youth hockey organizations follow,” said academy president Leo Fenn. “We started the Tahoe Hockey Academy after being in the youth hockey environment for 15 years and determining that there could be a better way for players to achieve their dreams of playing higher levels of hockey.
“The landscape of youth hockey has changed quite a bit over the years – geographically speaking, players are so spread out from the rinks they practice and play at on a weekly basis. I’ve heard of players traveling up to one and a half or two hours one way to practice, and that practice slot only lasts for one hour.”
Tahoe Hockey Academy athletic director Mike Lewis has seen it, too.
“Talk to any hockey player competing at a high level in California and you’ll hear stories of sacrifice,” Lewis said. “Whether it’s socially, where out of town travel means missed high school events, or academically, where too much time is spent traveling to and from the rink and grades suffer, it’s truly unfortunate to have to pay such a price.
“Our model was born out of the many inspired by an effort to minimize the challenges that parents and players face in California, and more importantly to provide an alternative to combat the need to ship players out of the state if they wish to have a better balance.”
A closer look into THA and traditional youth hockey organizations shows that the sport may be the only thing THA and youth organizations have in common when it comes to how they work.
“The traditional youth hockey model of development works, as it has propelled many players onto the next level of hockey,” Lewis said. “We aim to provide more of what can be expected at the next level, but incorporate it into our youth program.”
A side-by-side comparison of THA and traditional youth programs reflects an increase in what Fenn and Lewis are referring to.
Often, traditional programs simply don’t have the time or resources to provide the features that are found at THA and other prep school across the nation. More ice time per week, strength and conditioning, yoga, analytical testing, video review and a personalized development curriculum are part of the weekly fabric of the Tahoe Hockey Academy.
“A question we asked ourselves is ‘Why can’t student-athletes get the utmost development possible?’” Fenn said. “In asking that, we began to solve the many issues found in the current state of hockey in California and many states across the country. We designed our program to eliminate time spent in traffic, kids out of the classroom, poor attendance in class and falling grades at school, and that was merely the academic side of the equation.
“We’re finding that it truly does resonate with parents and players who want to pursue their dreams but currently can’t keep up with the academic and athletic demands.”
— Greg Ball