Keeping kids active in the summer can be a problem for some parents but for many there is no shortage of things to do which gets them out of the house and moving around.
The Red Deer Roller Hockey group is one of those activities and the association is working to attract more players and keep the ones they have in the fold.
“We’re down a little bit this year,” said president Doug Swanson. “Usually we’re at 280 but we’re at about 230 this year.”
Swanson says they are down in a couple of age groups, U8 and U16 levels, but the other divisions which cover U6 to U17 are solid and good to go.
“We’re not sure why we’ve had those declines in those two divisions but they exist and we’ll try to figure it out by next year and try to bring kids back into the game.”
This is the 11th year for the sport in an organized form in Red Deer and the enrollment has always been around the 220 to 300 level, he said.
So the game plan moving forward is somewhat in place and that’s making the game attractive for the young players so they make their way through the ranks each year.
“Our U6 and U8 programs are both long-term athlete development programs so we don’t play full court. Our U6’s play half court and our U8’s play a three-quarter court. I think at the younger groups it’s convincing people that smaller areas and small area games are a better developmental activity than larger surfaces.”
In this day and age sports like roller hockey do have to compete with other sports, including the year-round game on the ice but Swanson says the feeling is getting kids involved in a variety of sports for the entire year is beneficial to their development.
“The premise is that an athlete that participates in all sports becomes a long-term adult participant in many sports.”
The Red Deer Roller Hockey league is both a house league program called the Gunners which is an athletic, fun atmosphere and very social. For some players yearning for a more competitive challenge, they try out for the Snipers program which is composed of players who will compete at provincial tournaments and in some cases, nationally and internationally.
While the game so closely resembles ice hockey Swanson admits there have been some issues with fans clashing with officials but he says for the most part their league liaison between officials and coaches has traditionally not been very busy and that’s a good problem to have.
“Sometimes individuals may lose their focus a little bit for the most part but it really is fun and it really is an entertaining game and it’s really there for enjoyment and we try to create success from that,” he said. “I think we have a healthy program that looks at supporting the kids and supporting their development and then through that development we try to garner success out of our competitive program.”
As for the game itself, Swanson says it is very affordable as hockey equipment can be transferred over but a player of course needs to buy a pair of rollerblades.
For example the U6 program has a cost of $25 attached to it and players will get one session a week for nine weeks, he said.
The other programs see players on the court for two sessions a week and the cost totals out at $125 for three months and the U12 to U16 is $150.
“I think it’s affordable and if you’re not in the competitive program there’s relatively no travel and so it’s really just to get some blades on.”