Youth hockey enrollment numbers are on the rise in Arizona. With many different outlets to choose from based on player’s skill, price range and time availability it is becoming more convenient for parents to allow their kids to get involved in hockey. But what might be overlooked is the growing interest girls are taking in hockey. Not just in Arizona, but in the entire country. USA Hockey saw all-time high 67,230 female participants in the 2013-2014 season. With growing numbers in girl’s hockey, parents and players should do their best to know all of their options moving forward.
For the most part, girls start their playing career contending with boys. That usually is not a big deal until the bantam level, when full-contact body checking becomes an element of the game. While girls are allowed to skate in contact leagues, players sometimes take an alternate route and move in to an all-girls league which features no checking. Parents and players’ choices and opinions vary on whether or not checking plays a factor in their decision. Skill level, experience and confidence are all components that should factor into a girl’s decision making when choosing the next step in her career.
The Arizona Lady Coyotes is an association that gives young female players an opportunity to play on an all-girls team. The Lady Coyotes organization continues to climb at a strong growing rate as well.
With 42 players and four teams this could be a great alternative to playing against the boys.
“This is my first time playing on an all-girls team,” Isabella Puleo said about the transition from coed hockey. Puleo has been playing hockey for seven years and is captain of the 14 and under Lady Coyotes. “I used to be the only girl. I would say it is definitely more encouraging. It is more of a peaceful environment. There’s more encouragement and less anger. Because playing with boys they get really angry easily.”
Parents and female players have a tough choice to make at some point in their career: When do you step away from playing with the boys in checking leagues and go to strictly girl’s hockey? Checking becomes a factor at the bantam levels.
So, when is the right time to make the switch?
“There’s been a big difference in the maturity level,” hockey dad, Steve Gloyd, commented about his daughter, Sheridan, playing with the all-girls team for the second season. Before that Sheridan spent three seasons playing with and against all boys. “When they play with the boys, sometimes the girls happen to fade away a little bit. They get a little bit shy.”
But not all girls shy away when competing with the boys. Some girls are encouraged by their parents and coaches to stay in the coed leagues because they are able to thrive. Every association in Arizona allows girls to try out for any of their teams whether it be a checking age level or not.
“Playing with the boys is competitive and I like it,” 14-year-old Zoe Manriquez said. Manriquez is one of the goaltenders for the Arizona Hockey Union’s Bantam Black team. She insists she is not ready to give up playing against the boys just yet.
“They under estimate you,” Manriquez said about going into games against boys. “It makes you want to beat them.”
As the number of female participants grows in Arizona so will the possibilities and resources for girls to experience their love for the sport of hockey.