A National Alliance for Youth Sports resource helping coaches, parents and administrators provide the best youth sports experiences for children.
Path to the Pros: Play and enjoy a wide variety of sports
By Greg Bach
Jenny Scrivens’ journey to professional hockey player began in the most unlikely of places: a Cul-de-sac in Southern California.
It was there, under blue skies and dazzling sunshine, that she played street hockey with her two older brothers and twin sister, eventually progressing to inline hockey, youth ice hockey and later college hockey at Cornell University.
But along the way she also played every other sport she could, dodging the sports specialization trap that sabotages countless youth sports careers every year.
“I tried to play every sport I possibly could and to me that’s incredibly important in the development of everything from social skills to time management and interpersonal skills,” says Scrivens, a goaltender for the New York Riveters in the brand new professional National Women’s Hockey League that began play five months ago. “I worry about those kids who are only focused on one sport from a really young age. To me it’s all about maintaining that balance and I just think it’s so important for young athletes these days to try a bunch of different sports so they don’t get burned out and realize there are other opportunities out there.”
A LOVE OF HOCKEY
Scrivens played soccer until the age of 14, and played high school tennis for four years, though it was hockey that captured her heart.
She played Division I hockey at Cornell, where she stopped more than 1,300 shots during her goaltending career, including a sparkling 53-save performance in one game. It was at Cornell that she also met her husband Ben Scrivens, a goaltender for the Montreal Canadiens.
Along with her work ethic and talent, she also credits the coaches she’s had every step of the way on her journey to becoming a professional hockey player.
“I think I was able to pick up pieces of advice and work habits from every single coach I’ve had from my youth days all the way on up to professional hockey,” Scrivens says.
Now, with the arrival of the National Women’s Hockey League, talented female hockey players like Scrivens have a chance to not only play the game they love – and get paid for doing so! – but also pave the way for a new generation of young girls to lace up the skates and compete, too.
“I think the magnitude of it is still sinking in,” says Scrivens. “My goals growing up were always to play Division I college hockey, so the fact that there is now a league that women can now aspire to play in and make a living and be rewarded for all their hard work – that’s the ultimate dream come true.”
Besides Scrivens’ Brooklyn-based New York Riveters team, the league also features the Boston Pride, Buffalo Beauts and Connecticut Whale.
And the league oozes talent: U.S. Olympic team players and former NCAA champions are on the ice displaying their impressive talents.
A LEAGUE OF IMPACT
“I’m really hoping that the youth participation numbers spike and we see a larger influx of girls trying the sport,” Scrivens says of what type of impact the league can have on children. “For me it’s not just about getting women into sports, in particular hockey, it’s providing them the opportunity to have careers associated with this sport. I’m hoping to see more female broadcasters, journalists, play-by-play announcers and general managers. So for me the scope of this female empowerment idea extends beyond more than just on the ice.”
FUELING THE FUN
The most productive practices are those that are fun for players to participate in, regardless of the players’ skill level.
“Even at my level right now we play 3-on-3 games and fun games at practice,” Scrivens says. “So it’s important for young kids and it’s important for their coaches to continue to make it fun because it is such a demanding sport. I think I was pretty fortunate with my coaches growing up. I always remember practices being fun.”
Scrivens encourages today’s youth hockey coaches to keep the fun factor front and center in their practice planning.
“It’s important to have a great atmosphere at the rink and make sure that practices are challenging enough to push the team forward but not so hard that it’s too difficult,” she says.
Being a goaltender isn’t easy: pucks are flying at high rates of speed; there are usually players in front of the net blocking the goalie’s view; and there’s typically little time to react to shots.
So blend all those factors together and there are going to be games when youngsters give up goals – and sometimes lots of them. It’s the nature of the position, combined with the difficulty of the game.
So Scrivens encourages coaches to help their goaltenders maintain a level perspective.
“You’re not going to have a great game every time out,” she says. “Even the best goalies in the NHL have off games and even the best goalies get pulled. It’s not always the goaltender’s fault so you just have to maintain that level perspective. Today might be an off day but tomorrow can be a lot better so focus on what you’ve done to get where you are today. That’s what I lean on when I’m having a rough go.”
A child’s first coach wields enormous influence and can be the difference between a child loving – or leaving – the sport. Just ask Prim Siripipat, whose love of tennis was forged by an incredibly supportive and caring coach
She excelled on the basketball courts and soccer fields of her youth, and the lessons learned all the way through her collegiate playing days are used often in the high-pressure world of live television
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