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Getting Started with Hockey

Hockey is a wonderful sport for children and their families.  Children who play hockey are able to make new friends and stay active throughout many months while playing the world’s fastest, most exciting sport. If you are the parent of a youngster and are wondering whether hockey is right for your family, we have provided some information below to help you with your decision. The hockey community is very friendly and welcoming, and the South Windsor Youth Hockey Association would love to have you join us.


South Windsor Youth Hockey’s program consists of three stages: 
Learn to Skate Program ---> Learn to Play Program ---> Advanced Learn to Play ---> Travel Program

1. Learn to Skate Program

This beginner program is designed to teach boys and girls 4 -10 years old the basics of skating. Knowing how to skate is not a prerequisite.  Our instructors will teach them how, preparing them to join those already skating and learning the fundamentals of the game.
The key ingredient to South Windsor Youth Hockey Association (SWYHA) Learn to Skate is the element of having fun. South Windsor Youth Hockey has adopted and implemented a development model that adheres to the criteria and philosophies established by USA Hockey.
The Learn to Skate Program consists of four 1 hour on-ice sessions in October or November.  All skaters are able to join the Learn to Skate Program at any time during the session. The earlier the better, in that more time on the ice leads to more repetition and skill enhancement.  We run one 4 week session in October and another 4 week session in November.  You pick the one which is best for you and your family.
The cost of the Learn to Skate program for the 2021 season is FREE.   Hockey skates, hockey helmet with face mask and gloves are required.  An equipment package which includes hockey skates, a helmet with face mask and gloves is available at the South Windsor Pro Shop

Once a child graduates from our four week Learn to Skate program, your child advances into the South Windsor Youth Hockey Learn to Play program which offers an affordable transition into the game of hockey.


2. Learn to Play Program

The Learn to Play programs are skill development transitional programs in preparation for Travel Hockey.  They are geared toward children 4 to 12 years old and the programs are led by our USA Hockey certified coaching staff.  The Director of our Learn to Play programs is Ed Love.
*Learn to Play
is the introduction to hockey basics.  Children who have completed the four week Learn to Skate program are now ready for the Learn to Play program where the focus is on fun and learning skating as well as stick use, puck control and basic game instruction.  Another way of looking at it is that Learn to Play is a continuation of Learn to Skate with the introduction of stick use and hockey basics.  By the end of the Learn to Play program in February, your child will be skating forward and backward, stopping, stick handling, shooting and passing.

Learn to Play is the next step after Learn to Skate, and every child who completes Learn to Skate is ready for Learn to Play.

Learn to Play begins the week after the Learn to Skate session has completed, and it meets on Saturday and Sunday mornings starting in December through mid February.  Session details, schedules and times are posted on the website at www.swhockey.com.

Learn to Play players are responsible for pants, hockey socks, shoulder pads, elbow pads, knee/shin pads, supporter/cup, neck protector and a hockey stick.  All necessary equipment required to play hockey is available in the pro shop at the South Windsor Arena.  A South Windsor Youth Hockey practice jersey will be provided by SWYHA to each player for free.

*Advanced Learn to Play

is the continuation of the Learn to Play program, usually for players who have completed the Learn to Play program.  For Advanced Learn to Play, the emphasis is on skating and skill development with small area games in a fun environment. 
Advanced Learn to Play players skate on Saturday and Sunday mornings from October thru February, and an additional skills night is offered once a month during the week.



Extra Fun:  As part of South Windsor Youth Hockey’s Learn to Play programs, your young skater will also enjoy, over the course of the hockey season, small cross-ice scrimmages against other area developmental teams.  The kids will also have an opportunity to play hockey in Hartford at the XL Center in-between the periods of a Hartford Wolf Pack game.


3. Travel Program

The travel program offers skill development and games against teams from other youth hockey programs in Connecticut. Children are placed on a team with others at a similar age and skill level on the basis of tryouts held in the spring. Travel teams typically skate two practices during the week and two games (home and away) on the weekend from September until late February.  Travel teams typically play approximately 30-40 games home and away.  Teams also may play in tournaments during the season as well as an end of the year State Tournament. The commitment by a family in a travel program is usually higher simply due to the time for practices and games, and the amount of travel involved.

The travel program is broken up into the following Divisions:

a) 8U Mite – 7 to 8 years 
b) 10U Squirt - 9 to 10 years 
c) 12U Pee Wee - 11 to 12 years 
d) 14U Bantam - 13 to 14 years


Frequently Asked Questions for Parents:

How much does it cost?
Hockey has a reputation as a sport that costs a lot of money to play.  However, the cost of getting started is very reasonable with starter equipment packages available for a very modest cost.  The cost of Learn to Skate is FREE, and payments for Learn to Play are also very reasonable, with payments for
Learn to Play divided into two payments.  Once your child moves on to travel hockey, the total cost increases, but remember that your player will be on the ice for practice or games four times a week for about six months, so the per-hour cost ends up being lower than for many other youth sports.

Will I have to be at the rink at 5 AM?
No.  If you believe TV commercials, you might think all hockey practices take place at 5 AM. In reality, practices during the week are in the evenings, and games are at reasonable hours on the weekends. The instructional 
Learn to Play program, the gateway to our travel programs, this year is scheduled for Saturday and Sunday mornings at 7:00 and 8:10 am.

When should my child start?
While the Learn to Skate and 
Learn to Play programs are open to children of all ages, they are targeted for children 4-12 years old and there are advantages to starting your child early.  Four and five year olds take to skating very easily, and will have plenty of time to practice their skating and hockey skills before moving on to travel hockey.

Are girls welcome?
Yes!  Many girls enjoy youth hockey and the number is increasing every year.  Almost all girls start out in a youth hockey organization like SWYHA, with boys and girls learning and playing together.  As they get older, some girls choose to play for a girls-only team, but virtually all female hockey players got their start playing with the boys at co-ed organizations.

Is hockey dangerous?
After watching pro hockey games, you may worry that your child might get hurt playing the sport. While no youth sport is completely free of dangers, serious injuries are very rare in youth hockey. All players wear protective equipment including a helmet whenever they are on the ice, and physical contact (checking) is not allowed until the Bantam level (13 and 14 years old).  Coaches and referees take safety very seriously. Actually, compared to sports played on grass such as soccer and football, the incidence of serious injuries in hockey is quite low.

What happens at the end of the four week Learn to Skate (LTS) session?
Your new skater enters the Learn to Play program which is Saturday and Sunday mornings. 

What other equipment will my child need to participate?
Besides the basics (skates, helmet and gloves) your child uses for Learn to Skate, s/he will also need pants, hockey socks, shoulder pads, elbow pads, knee/shin pads, supporter/cup, neck protector and a hockey stick. 
All necessary equipment required to play hockey is available in the pro shop at the South Windsor Arena.
What are the hidden costs?
The hidden costs are your time, the occasional cost to sharpen skates and the occasional cup of coffee to keep warm.
How much time do I have before I have to make my decision?
You have the four weeks of Learn to Skate.  By the end of the fourth week, you should decide and your young skater should be enrolled in the 
Learn to Play program.  If you are worried about whether your child is ready to take that next step, you can always ask a coach.  But in our experience, every child who completes Learn to Skate is ready for Learn to Play.  Learn to Play is really just a continuation of Learn to Skate with the addition of sticks and pucks, and more time on the ice skating which is the number one thing every child needs to improve.
Where and how should I dress my child in his/her hockey gear?
The players should put on their hockey gear, with your assistance, in one of the locker rooms with their teammates.  Even though it is warmer, the Lobby should not be used because too many people walk through the area and it becomes too congested and unsafe for the kids.   While the locker rooms can be crowded, it is good for the young hockey players to get used to the process.  Plus, they have a chance to enjoy socializing with each other.  Putting on the hockey gear can be confusing at first.  Parents who are new to hockey should ask one of the coaches, usually wearing a coach jacket, any questions about the gear.
How long before practice starts should we arrive at the ice rink to get ready?
Bear in mind that ice time is very valuable, so we want all of the skaters on the ice by the time the practice is scheduled to start.  We also divide the kids into smaller manageable groups, so it helps to have them all present for this process.  Please help the coaches and other skaters by being on-time.
You should arrive at the rink at least 20 minutes before the scheduled start time so that your skater is ready to go.  If you need more than 20 minutes for your child to be ready with equipment and skates, that is totally okay and you should arrive even earlier.  Generally, we suggest 20-30 minutes ahead of time.
How do I find out how my child is doing?
Coaches and Assistant Coaches are always available after practice if you have specific questions about your child.  They want your child to have fun and learn hockey.  Feel free to ask questions.
Who is the best person for information?
Your best source of assistance will be the Head Coach or Team Representative.  Most of your emails will come from these individuals.  They will be around at most practices to provide information and help address any issues or concerns.  


What else do I need to know?
After a Learn to Skate or 
Learn to Play session, the best thing is some hot chocolate with your little skater as well as lots of smiles and encouragement.

For more information E-mail Head Coach Ed Love