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2019 - 2020 Reston Raiders Learn to Play Program Description (formerly Initiation Program)

Please note the Raiders Initiation Program (IP) is being re-branded as the Learn to Play (LTP) Program


The Reston Raiders Learn to Play (LTP) program is offered to all children ages 4 – 10 years old (2009 - 2015 birth years). The program is based on the USA Hockey American Development Model philosophy and is intended to teach players the fundamentals of the game in a fun and supportive environment.  This program is designed for children who have little to no experience ice skating or playing organized ice hockey and is intended as a pre-requisite for those children who wish to join the Raiders recreational House league hockey programs and/or our Travel Program.


Registration Dates for 2019 - 2020 Season

6/15/2019 – Registration opens for returning members on Saturday, June 15th @ 8:00am

7/1/2019 – Registration opens for new members on Monday, July 1st @ 8:00am


Program Goals

  • To have fun and grow a passion for the game.
  • To learn the fundamental skills required to play the game of hockey - skating, puck handling, scoring, body contact, and passing.
  • To develop players so they are prepared to take the next steps to play in the Raiders Travel or House Programs
  • To be introduced to the concepts of cooperation and fair play.



  • There are no pre-requisite skating or hockey experience required for the Learn to Play program – all abilities are encouraged to enroll – a desire to play hockey is the only thing we require.


Program Focus

The LTP program will focus on the basic skills required to play hockey.  These include:

  • Skating – forward stride, backward stride, stopping, agility, balance, coordination
  • Stickhandling and Puck Protection – fundamentals of stickhandling and how to keep possession of the puck
  • Passing – fundamentals of passing, including technique and different types of passing with a focus on forehand and backhand passes
  • Scoring – teaching shooting basics (wrist shot and backhand) as well as scoring concept
  • Body contact – Hockey is a physical game and while checking is not permitted until 14U, players at all levels will be instructed on how to use body contact as a key skill. 

What does my child get out of this program?

The program emphasizes the basic hockey skills: skating, puck handling, passing, scoring and body contact. Each skill is introduced and refined in a progressive one step at a time manner and then again through repetition. Children learn and develop through participating in practice drills and informal and modified games (such as shinny, freeze tag and obstacle courses). Although the emphasis is on fun and progressive skill development, the Learn to Play Program also allows kids to experience “real hockey” situations.

This video does a great job highlighting your child’s Learn to Play experience from their perspective – couldn’t be more accurate.


Program Structure

The Raiders Learn to Play season runs from late September to late February (approximately 20 weeks of ice sessions). There will be a mid-season break from mid-December to early January and the program will not meet on various holiday weekends. The program will be led by USA Hockey Certified coaches from the Reston Raiders Hockey Club and supported by parent volunteer coaches.  There are two formal offerings within the Learn to Play Program based upon age and experience.


Learn to Play 1 (LTP1)

Learn to Play 1 (LTP1) is intended for younger children (4 – 7 years old) with no hockey experience.

  • The LTP1 group will practice one time per week on Sunday afternoons. 
  • Younger players (e.g. 4 and 5-years of age) may repeat LTP1 and do not need to move on the LTP2.  All players born in 2015 and new players born in 2014 should register for LTP1.


Learn to Play 2 (LTP2)

Learn to Play 2 (LTP2) is intended for older children (6 – 10 years old) or those that have completed LTP1

  • The LTP2 group will practice two times per week.  Saturday morning games/scrimmages and Sunday afternoon practices.
  • Older players (born in 2013 – 2009) with no (or limited) skating/playing experience may also enroll in LTP2 – completion of LTP1 is not required.
  • These sessions will mirror our 8U house program games and begin to prepare players for our House and Travel programs. 


Program Fees

Learn to Play 1 (LTP1) - $275

Learn to Play 2 (LTP2) - $525

Both LTP1 and LTP2 run from late September to late February (approximately 20 weeks of ice sessions)


Age Enrollment Guidelines

The following are recommendations for each age based upon a recommended transition path to organized Recreational/Travel hockey. We understand schedules may only allow certain options for your child, so these are recommendations only unless stated otherwise

  • 2015 – LTP1 only
  • 2014 – LTP1 recommended
  • 2013 – LTP1 or LTP2
  • 2012 – LTP1 or LTP2 (LTP2 recommended)
  • 2011 – LTP2 recommended
  • 2010 – LTP2 strongly recommended
  • 2009 – LTP2 only


If you need assistance determining which LTP session is the correct fit for your child, please email or – please include your child’s birth year and hockey/skating experience. 


The Raiders coaching staff will do an initial evaluation on all the LTP players at the beginning of the year to ensure your player is in the correct session.  We may ask that some players move from LTP1 to LTP2 and vice-versa depending on their age/ability and what we believe is the best environment for your child’s hockey development. 

Children will be evaluated at the end of the LTP season and you will be provided a recommendation on the next steps in your child’s hockey career.  We will assess if they have the requisite skill level to join the Reston Raiders House or Travel programs or would benefit most from another session of Learn to Play. The main factor used to determine the recommendation for the next step in your child’s hockey career is to decide which environment would be best for the development of your child as a hockey player.  A child who does not “graduate” to our House program is not a failure or “behind” – many of our most skilled Raider players at the 8U through 18U levels took multiple years of LTP – your LTP player is at the very beginning of hopefully a long hockey career.  We strive to create an environment where each child enjoys the great game of hockey and looks forward to coming to the rink and leaves the rink with a smile.  The LTP program is all about developing players, developing a passion for the game, and… about smiles.  After all, it’s always a great day to play hockey!


Volunteer Coaches

Our program is dependent on adults willing to volunteer their time to help the kids learn to play the great game of hockey.  We greatly appreciate all the volunteers from previous seasons who come back to help and we encourage new volunteers to help us each year. You will not be stuck out there by yourself, experienced Raider coaches will plan and lead the sessions. If you would like to volunteer, please email so we can put you on the list – no previous hockey experience is necessary, ability to stand up and move around on skates is very beneficial, patience and a desire to have fun with the kids is required.  Minimum requirements for volunteer coaches include:

  • Registration with USA Hockey
  • SafeSport Education
  • Background Check


Required equipment

  • Hockey Shorts - Jock/Jill (with Velcro to hold up hockey socks)
  • Skates
  • Shin Pads
  • Hockey pants
  • Hockey Socks
  • Shoulder pads (small, not overbearing)
  • Elbow Pads
  • Hockey Gloves
  • Hockey helmet with cage/facemask
  • Hockey Stick


The Reston Raiders will provide a stick and a jersey to all LTP participants (to be distributed at the Orientation Session).


Optional equipment

  • Mouthguard
  • Neck protection (hockey neck guard)


The Reston Raiders host an annual equipment swap where you can find gently used youth hockey gear for very reasonable prices.  The equipment swap usually takes place in early September (prior to the LTP season start) and details will be posted on the Raiders website.


Washington Capitals/NHL Learn to Play Equipment Program

In previous seasons, the Washington Capitals and the NHL have sponsored a free equipment program for all new Learn to Play participants (those players who have not participated in a Learn to Play program previously).  Currently the Future Caps Learn to Play program is not being offered to the Raiders program. The Raiders are currently working to see if the Capitals to see if they will offer this program for our Learn to Play participants and we will notify all players if this is possible.


Additional Resources


For more information, contact the Learn to Play Director at   or