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How to Implement the Initiation Program

Support must come in a number of sources and from a variety of people. Again bearing in mind that the majority of people delivering this program will be relatively inexperienced it is essential that the organization lends support in the following ways: 

  • Identify and recruit volunteers to manage and run the programs. A ratio of one (1) volunteer per five (5) participants is probably ideal.
  • Provide training and support to the administrative personnel, through information sessions and the appointment of an experienced administrator. Don’t leave them to administer the program for themselves, nor should they be expected to know how to.
  • Provide training and support for the technical personnel (the instructors) beyond the Initiation Program Clinic.
  • An experienced technical person or committee to advise and conduct follow up training is essential. Preferably someone with experience in developing and delivering such programs.
  • Communications between the IP and other areas of the Association should be open. Remember these people are the future of your association.
  • A strategy must be developed to sell the program to the parents. Get them on your side. Options include information sessions, newsletters, and evaluations.

Recruiting Volunteers

Leadership is the key in the IP just as it is in any of the other cooperative hockey program. In addition to developing players’ hockey skills and promoting physical fitness, instructors are responsible for encouraging initiative, stimulating interest in the sport and instilling a desire for continued success. Because the IP deals with entry level players which may contain children who have not even entered the school system, the need for quality leadership is critical. For some of the children the IP may be the very first time they have attended an organized event outside the home. Therefore, the IP instructor may be their first authoritative figure, other than the parent, that the child encounters. Again, because of the fact that they are dealing with entry level players, instructors and other volunteers will have to be positive, energetic, creative, fun-loving and above all, patience.

The IP instructors’ course will emphasize many of the attributes necessary to conduct the program successfully. It certainly is not necessary that the potential instructors have previous experience in teaching hockey skills, although that would certainly be a bonus. At the beginner level, instructors may range from an interested parent who offers to come out in street shoes to offer encouragement to a seasoned instructor who can demonstrate the skills covered in the manuals. Associations must be innovative in their recruitment of IP volunteers. The IP can be a grooming area for the Association's future coaches as well as players. The following are some proven common sense ideas on volunteer recruitment. These ide, plus a few of your own, may be the key to making your program a success.

Three (3) Key Roles for a Successful Program

No matter where you recruit the volunteers necessary to conduct a successful IP, a strong nucleus of volunteers is essential. The IP recognizes the need for a number of roles to be filled to effectively operate the program and deliver the curriculum. However, in a number of MHA’s, a single individual may be able to fill one (1) or more roles.

The basic framework or structure of the personnel required to implement the IP is not very complex. The IP requires three (3) key roles to be filled by individuals:

  1. Program Convener or Administrator
  2. Technical Coordinator or Head Instructor
  3. Group Instructors (on-ice)

With these roles filled by individuals from within your MHA, and by participating in the training sessions offered by the Branch (as well as receiving the support of your Branch) you and your MHA are on the way to staging a very positive and fun filled learning experience for beginning hockey players in your community. Each of these individuals have a specific role to play in the delivery of the IP; each somewhat distinct, yet, interdependent upon each to achieve a successful program.

Program Convener/Administrator

An IP’s convener is directly responsible for overseeing the implementation and delivery for the IP. This volunteer plans, organizes, and administers the IP for the minor hockey association. The program convener may be an executive member of the minor hockey association or may simply be the liaison to the association's executive. This position is directly responsible to report directly to the minor hockey association's board of directors. The convener has a number of responsibilities to fulfil which require a number of administrative skills. Some of the duties of the Program Convener may include budgeting, liaising with the MHA's executive, recruitment and placement of instructors, organizing the instructors' clinic, coordinating the evaluation of the program, undertaking special events and recommending changes to the program and its delivery. He or she must work closely with the Technical Coordinator, and thus it is wise to select people for these two (2) roles who both complement one another and who are capable of working together. The qualifications within a typical recruitment advertisement for a convener may contain the following requirements: 

  • Understand the fundamental elements of the IP 
  • Possess a commitment to the established goals of the IP 
  • Possess strong organizational, interpersonal and communication skills 
  • Have the ability to conduct group presentations 
  • Have the ability to liaise with volunteers, board members, administrators, instructors and parents 
  • Has demonstrated ability to provide adequate time to the delivery of the IP 
  • Has an enthusiastic attitude working with parents, administrators and youngsters

Convener/Administrator Job Description

A typical job description for the program convener/administrator may contain these responsibilities (some may be shared with the Technical Coordinator, if there is one):

  • Pre-Season 
  • Work with the MHA’s board of directors to have the IP sanctioned within the Association, whether it be through a formal change to the association's constitution or through a general commitment to undertake the IP. This may entail obtaining information from the branch, conducting an information session for the minor hockey association's board of directors, parents and other interested individuals; 
  • Prepare a preliminary operating budget for review and adoption by the MHA’s board. This budget may contain estimates for expenditures and revenues for:
    • ice rental
    • equipment (pucks, pylons, instructor warm-up suits, whistles, etc.
    • supplies (paper, pens, envelopes, binders, lesson manuals, etc.)
    • training fees (to conduct instructor training sessions)
    • room rentals (to conduct meetings)
    • promotion supplies (posters, photocopying, pamphlets, VHS tapes)
    • advertising (in local media vehicles)
    • first aid supplies and kits
    • instructor recognition (certificates, etc.)
    • sponsorship ·
  • Preparation of a preliminary ice schedule for lessons and/or mini-games 
  • Secure appropriate ice time in conjunction with the MHA
  • Preparation and implementation of recruitment procedures for participants, instructors and head instructors 
  • Co-ordinate the registration of participants 
  • Assist in the selection and training of head instructor(s) 
  • Co-ordinate the scheduling of an IP INSTRUCTORS CLINIC in conjunction with the MHA & the Branch. This component should include the confirmation of dates of the clinic, location, time frames, fees, rentals (room, audio-visual, etc.), availability of instructional material, etc. 
  • conduct a PARENT ORIENTATION MEETING to familiarize parents of prospective participants with the objectives of the IP, and how it is to be implemented in the Association (Administrators Workshop Presentation)
  • On-Ice Delivery 
  • Co-ordinate the initial evaluation of participants for the purpose of grouping in the appropriate skill level 
  • Confirm arena facilities/schedule and provide copies to all parties 
  • Liaise with the minor hockey Association's board, the IP Technical Coordinator and/or Head Instructor and on-ice instructors, the parents of the participants 
  • Co-ordinate special events (photo sessions, mini-games, etc.)
  • Post Season 
  • Prepare a report for the MHA’s board which may contain information on the Association's Instructor training session, participant/parent evaluation and statistics on the number participants and gender 
  • Submit recommendations to the board of the MHA with respect to any changes that could be made to improve the IP 
  • Prepare equipment and supplies for storage 
  • Undertake necessary actions for preparation for the next season

On-Ice Instructor

The on-ice instructors of the MHA’s program are generally recruited from the participants' moms and dads. In some situations, the on-ice instructors may also be volunteers from other segments of the community including students (a minimum of 16 years of age), post-secondary students and other adult volunteers. (See the section on recruiting). This position entails the delivery of the IP curriculum on the ice to the participants as scheduled by the program's convener. The qualifications within a typical recruitment advertisement may contain the following requirements: 

  • Possess a coaching and/or hockey background OR a strong desire to begin to learn instructional techniques in the delivery of fundamental ice hockey skills 
  • Possess an enthusiastic attitude and desire to work with beginning hockey players 
  • Possess strong communication skills 
  • Possess a commitment to the goals and philosophy of the IP

On-Ice Instructor Job Description

A typical job description for on-ice Instructors may contain these responsibilities:

  • Pre-Season 
  • Successfully complete the Association's instructor’s session 
  • Successfully participate in the supplementary training sessions as coordinated by the MHA
  • On-Ice Delivery 
    • Deliver the program's curriculum to the assigned groups 
    • Arrive at the ice rink approximately 30 minutes prior to the ice session 
    • Exemplify fair play and cooperation
    • Provide instruction in a manner that motivates and challenges the participants while respecting each individual 
  • Demonstrate effective leadership on and off the ice, for example, providing effective feedback to the participants 
  • Provide feedback to parents of the participants 
  • Assist in the evaluation of the participants and the IP in general 
  • Demonstrate necessary risk management skills at all times by assisting the head instructor with the arena safety checklist at each ice session
  • Assist the head instructor in assigning players to their respective groups 
  • Ensure practice schedule is respected 
  • Explain and demonstrate drills and games to the participants
  • Coordinate the orderly entrance and exit to/from the ice surface by the participants 
  • Utilize the appropriate equipment for the lesson plan; pick-up all equipment prior to leaving the ice surface


The writings of the IP are really a curriculum of skill development designed to introduce the beginning players to the skills of the game of hockey. One of the keys to running a successful IP is to build this curriculum into a complete seasonal plan. The idea of building a seasonal plan around the curriculum of the IP is a task, which must be done at the minor hockey level. Obviously, the seasonal plan for an association with 400 players in the IP will differ considerably from that of a community association having only 15 players. The local constraints of the program will all play a role in the unique design of an Association's seasonal plan. These are considerations such as: 

  • Association size 
  • Allotted ice time 
  • Number of instructors 
  • Age levels of hockey entry 
  • Numbers of entry level players

Even the surrounding communities may play a role in your program design. For example, a small community situated near a large one will be dependent on the large Association if, in the later stages of the program, introduction to playing an opponent is sought. The large Association could run a totally "in house" program but must be sensitive to the effect this would have on their smaller neighbour. Every Association building an IP will have its own unique design. The goal, however, is the commonality of using the curriculum of the IP and its teaching strategies to build a strong foundation of skills which will allow players to enjoy hockey for a lifetime. Because of the parameters dictating the local program, it is impossible to tell someone how they must run the IP. However, over the beginning years of using the curriculum, a number of very good models have emerged.

This section of the manual will examine some of the designs being implemented by Associations across the country. Again, these models may not fit your particular conditions but they could be used as ideas to either modify or start your IP. It is hoped that this section of the manual will be constantly changing with the addition of new, innovative models, this section is not theoretical. The compilation of ideas comes from people across the country that are actually running an IP. They have taken the time to document their ideas, to share them and to build better programs for entry level players. Before explicit examples are given, we have attempted to: 

  • Categorize different ways of grouping the children in the IP
  • Categorize ways of introducing the game of hockey to children in the IP

Grouping Players

Most of the ideas on grouping players come from two (2) main designs. We have named them "Program Design" and "Team Design".

Program Design

In this design, players are kept as one large group and treated/instructed as a whole. In large Associations, the "whole" may mean players working out of the “A“ manual only - all on the ice at the same time, "B"s on the ice at the same time, etc. This model is characterized by instructors being responsible for all the players in the program rather than only a pre-selected number. Instructors may be responsible for station work involving their areas of expertise.

During the session the instructors would instruct all the players as they moved though his/her station. Minor "team" games or scrimmages would take place with a random selection of players. These "teams" would constantly change. The benefits of this design are: 

  • All players receive equal instruction from a variety of instructors 
  • Players get to associate with a maximum number of other players on the ice

Instructors have a narrow range of ability to deal with, making it easier for them to give instruction Associations may choose to conduct this design with all players of approximately the same skill level being on the ice at the same time (thus working out of the same Manual) OR a mixture of skill levels who use station work to attend to the appropriate curriculum (groups working out of different Manuals). The latter scenario is a perfect design for a small community that has no choice in delivering a diverse curriculum to suit all their player's abilities. Some associations can accommodate in excess of 60 players on the ice at one time using this program design. Games like British Bulldog would be run with the entire group and station work would attend to the curriculum.

Team Design

In this design, an instructor or group or instructors is assigned a number of players (a "team") in the early part of the season. The instructional group would then be responsible for conducting the IP curriculum to their group of players. This design may lead to situations where these player groups are identifiable by the same colour sweaters and play minor games or scrimmages against different colours. The player groups would, for the most part, be intact for the season. Ice schedules may have a number of these "player groups" on the ice at the same time but when attending to the curriculum, the players are instructed by the same instructor.

Example: A simple model would be 45 players on the ice with groups of 15 dressed in green, yellow and red. After warming up together, the 15 yellow players would be instructed at their end of the rink by "their" instructor (as would the other colours).

The benefits of this design are: 

  • Player groups are much easier to organize
  • Players form a more intimate identity to a smaller group
  • Players receive consistent instruction from their identifiable leader(s)
  • Easy transfer into mainstream hockey where this player group becomes a "team"

As you read the two (2) formulas just presented, you can probably imagine a number of designs that would be a combination of the two (2) models. As with many of the ideas presented, the options must be thought of as a continuum, rather than one or the other. In this case, the two (2) ends of the continuum are Program and Team. You might choose some midway design.

For example: Program Design

  • Team Design Option A: Your Association may also choose to operate a Program Design with first year players and progress to Team Design as players ready for entry into mainstream hockey. This is actually a common practice.
  • Option B Program Design could be used for the early part of the season, and then at a suitable time players could be regrouped into team groups. The transition could be made at different times for different groups, depending on age and/or ability.

Program Models Following are four (4) program models that can be used as models for any Association that implements the IP. They can be used for Associations with 20 kids up to 400 kids, and can be adapted to meet the requirements of each individual Association. Keep in mind these models are guidelines, but have been used successfully by many Associations. Each Association, depending upon the number of kids, ages of the kids and skill level can progress through each model, or apply the various models to the categories with in their own initiation age levels.

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