Re: The Future Of Our Sport- "Project RH"
I think it's great what you're pursuing here and I wish you the best of luck and offer my help as many others here will as well. I think you've hit on some points that really need to be addressed, but I think we're talking on one side of the fence vs what the new players are going to see.
There is an outdoor rink here in Colorado Springs that is frequented by old and young, beginner and experienced, ice guys just tooling around, inline only guys playing on non-league game nights, fanatic players who play both ice and inline, etc. etc. etc.
The big key to it's success? It's at a decently busy intersection on the corner of a large park that has b-ball courts, tennis courts, an indoor pool and water slide, soccer fields and a disc golf course. Right place, right facility, and five minutes away from the Tour Arena.
We have another outdoor rink of a similar setup, tucked away behind a business park that no one knows about with a Lacrosse field and some batting cages around it. This rink rearely gets used, barely ever gets enough people to play a game, etc.
We need more locations like the first in city parks, community activity centers, etc. For all the leagues and tournaments and all, getting people outside (remember we have an obesity epidemic in the country too) and playing on a pair of $20 Target skates with a $10 stick is what made roller hockey grow a decade and a half ago. I said it before somewhere else on these boards; where are the kids who used to play street hockey with cheap skates, cheap sticks, a lousy net and a plastic ball or dead tennis ball?
My call to action would be:
-Players: find the newbs. Play with them, teach them, encourage them. I've seen too many good players stroke their own egos by killing new guys in pick-up games. Take those skills and help these guys out, they'll keep coming back that way. Inform them also about leagues, many just don't know and think ice is all there is for organized hockey.
-Rink Owners: facilitate hockey as much as possible if it's something you're running already. Some rinks don't, but find the places for the interested people to go to if you don't have it.
-Manufacturers: give us cheap gear. $100 is the bare minimum for entry level skates, people can go to Target, Walmart, etc and get a $20 pair of inlines. Even if it means going backwards in technology and using a plastic/nylon frame instead of aluminum, and low end bearings, etc. Let's see a $30-$50 skate. The old Tour S274 was a prime beginner skate, and by todays manufacturing standards it should be cheap to build. No carbon fiber, no Clarino leather lining, no aluminum chassis, etc. Franklin, Mylec and the gear Rollerblade made were all prime examples of perfect beginner gear to get people swinging sticks and sinking goals. Those three are all but dead (Rollerblade doesn't do anything hockey related anymore, but certainly not dead) because they couldn't compete at a higher level, and in all our progression of the sport forgot how a lot of people started.
-Tournament directors: While NARCH, TORHS, AAU, State Wars and all the others are great, where's the parking lot tours like the NHL breakout tournies from a decade ago? We need parking lot tournies at shopping centers, malls, something to catch the attention of the uninformed. We aren't getting TV time, so we need to hit the streets, literally. Get a sponsered event with some manufacturers low end gear and an almost festival like atmosphere. Prizes for shooting a ball in from half court, fastest shot, etc. for the passers by while players have a mini-tourny. While there is cost associated, work in conjunction with the businesses around, get some sponserships, charge a nominal fee for a ball hockey tourny, etc.
-Governing bodies: You're job is tough. You have to swallow your own brand pride (which is not a bad thing to have) and WORK TOGETHER. Get on the same page. Get your publications to the rinks to the Play it Again Sports, the Big 5's, the ****'s, The Sports Authority's, etc. Get your word out of the hands that know the game and into the hands of those who don't know but might want to.
-Pro Players: Just get out to schools, youth groups, outdoor rinks, skating rinks and play when you can at pickup games and such. Your job is both easy and hard. The easy part is just going and playing, the hard part is working with the new people to fire them up and not get frustrated at first. It's tough to teach people to play, the whole game is unnatural movement for us as humans.
That's my .02 on it. Start before the league level, get people playing anywhere, anytime.
Run learn to play programs that teach the game a little before ever putting skates on. Hell, just go evangalize the game and then work on mini-workshops for new players.
Like I said, we don't have meida coverage on TV. Let's get some video cameras out there and do viral online videos. Let's get some sort of summer parking lot festival type things going and get the local radio stations. As sexist as this may come across, get some cheerleaders and do a carwash with them wearing PIHA colors or something along those lines, it's actually effective, just let them pull in the customers as there's the draw for those car washes. Buddy up with the local hockey shops to get newbs a 10% discount on gear, hell equipment packages heavily discounted for first time players.
Something, anything to just get the word out.
One of God's own prototypes, a high-powered mutant of some kind, never considered for mass production