Sherry White, MHA executive board secretary, says the board is made up of all
volunteers, most are parents of players. I am the parent of a player. My son, Emmett,
is 9 years old. He started with MHA when he was 3 1/2. He participated in the MHA
Learn to Play program, the Level 1 Developmental House Program, as well as the
Little Penguins Learn to Play program his first year. He joined the travel team
his second year and is now a 10U player and finishing his fifth season of travel
hockey and sixth season playing,” she said.
In the summer 2019, Kristen Dieffenbach contacted MHA about the possibility of CPASS
students helping at the rink through coaching, developing programs and running
education programs for players, coaches and parents. We saw the benefits of this
concept. In March 2020, she presented a proposal for a graduate assistant
coach developer to support the 6U, 8U, 10U and developmental house programs,
including forming structured youth hockey program curriculum, providing on-ice
'coaching the coaches' support and developing resources for parents that reinforces
the USA Hockey Development Model.
The Board unanimously voted to approve and fund this position. MHA operates completely
as a non-profit with all volunteers for coaching, team managers, board members,
etc. We are funded through player fees and fundraising efforts. As the first time
that we have funded such a position, we felt that it would be a big benefit to
This partnership has provided tremendous value to our programs and coaches. Dr. Dieffenbach
and Brett provided support to our youngest players in the beginning stages of their
development, along with training for our coaching staff, who are parent volunteers
and have varying levels of experience in skating and playing hockey. We need to
have children become involved at a younger age so that they can develop the skills
necessary to compete as they get older, allowing us to continue to grow the program
and sport in our community,
Providing the right encouragement and guidance to these beginning players and their
parents is what will determine if they decide to keep playing or not. This partnership
and the students who worked with us helped to provide the knowledge on how to engage
those youngest players and their families so that they wanted to keep on playing
Brett developed the practice plans entirely for our Level 1 Developmental House League
and ran that program with the support of the other student interns, Dr. Dieffenbach
and volunteer coaches from our organization. Level 1 is for all first-year players
who are just starting out in the sport.
The practice plans and drills he utilized following the USA Hockey American Development
Model, the Hockey Canada Model and applying knowledge of working with youth athletes
that he is gaining from his master’s programs, engaged these young athletes (mostly
between the ages of 4-7) and made them want to keep playing and learning.
Brett encouraged players from our teams to come out and help work with the younger
kids which was amazing because it gave the younger kids someone to look up to who
has gone through the process and it gave those older kids a chance to work on their
own fundamentals of skating, while teaching them about volunteering their time
and giving back.
All coaches said that this was the most organized they have ever seen the program
being ran and that they were impressed with how much the kids were learning and
what a great job Brett was doing.
Brett led a training session where he worked with our volunteer coaches to help them
improve their own hockey skills. He showed them how the drills they use and the
plans they follow impact their players. This was especially helpful for some of
the parent coaches who never played hockey themselves. They learned more hockey
specific skills and how it impacts the players and their development.
Having someone with Brett’s breadth of experience and knowledge of hockey, along
with his educational background in coaching, provided many of them a deeper insight
into the game and the skills that they should be developing in their players.
Brett provided support with coaching one of our 10U (Squirt) teams. Kristen Dieffenbach
served as head coach of the team and had two assistant coaches. Brett worked with
them to set up drills, provide educational support and another level of training
and encouragement to the kids. He worked with supporting training and development
with the 14U girl’s hockey team. Finally, Brett is helping with the development
and planning of the tryouts for our next hockey season for all the teams 14U and
He is developing the skating plans to help us place skaters in the appropriate team
situations and to help provide evaluations for the skaters and their families on
skills they can work on throughout the summer to help them prepare for next season.
Brett will provide players with valuable feedback and ideas for ways they can improve
over the summer, whether they can get on the ice or not.
Keeping calm in the pandemic
The pandemic affected the season from beginning to end. The Board approved the partnership
with CACSS and to sponsor the GA position in March 2020, before the pandemic hit
the United States. In July 2020, we began having discussions about what we would
do if we could not have a season. Luckily, we were able to get the kids on the
ice, first in Pennsylvania at another rink because the Morgantown Ice Arena delayed
their opening, and then, finally, in Morgantown.
Throughout the various postponements, we adjusted to provide opportunities to skate,
improve skills and techniques. Brett developed a “Train with MHA” program that
we could utilize through our social media accounts and websites to keep players
engaged and learning during the hiatus. At times, we could not have traditional
practices with pucks, players and coaches had to wear masks and parents were asked
to bring their players in and then wait in the parking lot until practices were
Brett pivoted again and developed skating drills for both developmental levels and
the 6U, 8U and 10U teams. He provided ideas for stickhandling drills that could
be done at home. We began regular practices with pucks again in mid-late January
2021. With the Governor’s postponement ending on March 5 and hard work and effort
from all coaches, team managers, parents and players, we got in more than 80 games
between our Blades (travel) and Mohawks (school) teams in the month of March.
Hockey for all
We absolutely want to continue this partnership with CPASS and are excited to bring
Brett back to work with us again. The board voted unanimously to approve funding
the graduate assistant position next school year. We are excited to see what we
can accomplish when, hopefully, we are not as encumbered by COVID-19 as we were
We are looking forward to planning more coach training sessions in the pre-season,
further developing and promoting training at home, extending information and social
media campaigns along with other great ideas he and the CPASS students have.
Additionally, having Kristen Dieffenbach as part of our organization is game changing.
Her focus on player development, physically, mentally and emotionally, will make
all players better long-term athletes and make this sport something they will enjoy
playing for a lifetime.