GETTING STARTED - Help Is Available

So you want to form a high school hockey team. What do you do? Who do you talk to? What do you need? How much does it cost? What experience is needed? Glad you asked! This is a good place to start.

The first thing to remember is that there were 1,988 high school level ice hockey teams registered with USA Hockey during the 1998-99 Season. At some time, they all had to start from where you are now - wanting to form a team, but not having the foggiest idea where to start.

The following information, taken from existing present programs and experiences, is provided to make forming a team as painless as possible. Remember the saying, "No pain, no gain?" Well, that's not necessarily true, but there will be times when you will doubt your sanity for getting involved.

There are quite a few different sources available for guidance and information on forming a team. Depending upon your situation, some of them may be more helpful and appropriate than others. The main point to remember is to not be bashful about asking for guidance and assistance. Most hockey types are very willing to help you and actually enjoy helping to form a team.

First, you really need to know what USA Hockey is all about. Clicking the "USA Hockey" button will take you back to the USA Hockey Home Page where you can browse through the information provided on the main site and become familiar with our organization and why we exist.

Once you feel comfortable with what USA Hockey is all about, clicking the "High School Section" button will show you a list of the 11 District Representatives to the Section. If you are new to USA Hockey, look for your State in the table of "Districts." Then look at the table of "District Representatives" to find who you can call, fax, or e-mail for information on starting a team.

Structure for a Typical Hockey Organization
 Whether we like it or not, success in today's society is frequently based on whether we complete the paperwork-based foundation upon which any effective organization - of any size - is built. Even though you may only want to start and manage one small team, you will find yourself laying the groundwork for an incorporated business not unlike commercial businesses in your community. Don't fight it; it's for your own protection! Major point to remember: it takes two separate and distinct organizations to field a hockey team. The first and most obvious is the team organization composed primarily of the players, coaching staff, and managers. This is the group that gets to play the games and have the fun. The second is the business end which is not unlike other commercial business in your community.

First, let's take a look at the typical business-end organization - it's essentially the same for one team or a League with 100 teams - you are about to build. Then we'll go through the relatively simple construction process of building the business. Lastly we'll look at the team organization, which is what you wanted to do in the first place!

The following discussion presumes that a high school ice hockey association is being organized and maintained by a group of volunteers. This group of volunteers will be called the Board of Directors and the organization they administer will be called the Association. The responsibilities of the Board may vary widely among Associations across the United States. In situations where the Association is operated by a Rink or if it is a varsity program at a school, one or more paid staff members will conduct most of the Operations. The volunteers may be limited to fund raising and various support activities. At the other extreme, the Association may own the Rink and the Board may be required to supervise it, as well as all of the programs that use the facility.

The size of the Board of Directors will vary among associations. If a Board has too few members, it may be difficult to accomplish all the necessary work. If it has too many members, it will have difficulty reaching decisions. The Board members may be elected by and from some larger group in the community, or the Board itself may select or recruit its members. The By-Laws of the Association will specify who may vote and how Board membership is acquired and maintained.

Due to their numerous responsibilities, the Board of Directors meets regularly - usually monthly - to consider and approve matters of interest to the Association. Board meetings normally are open to the members of the Association. The Board of Directors is usually chaired by a President, typically elected from among the Board members, to serve a specific term (i.e. 2 yrs) of office.

Associations generally acquire and spend large amounts of money; therefore, a competent treasurer is essential. There may be a Secretary and one or more Vice Presidents as determined by the Association By-Laws.

The President is at the top of the chain of command, and in all except the smallest Associations he/she should not be involved in the day-to-day operations of the Association. There are many other activities and committees, including important fund raising matters, that will require his or her attention. The President can expect to spend considerable time communicating with members of the Association regarding matters of interest.

The person overseeing all the operations may be called the Director, or Vice President of Operations. He or she would report to and be directly responsible to the President. The Director of Operations generally is responsible for obtaining the Association's ice time, allocating it to the program segments, and resolving disputes among the groups. Experienced supervisors, functioning under the direction of the Director of Operations, will each direct one (or more) of the program segments. A large program segment may require another level of group supervisors. Many of these supervisors will be members of the Board of Directors. Examples of job descriptions are contained in the By-Laws.

Other members of the Board will chair or serve on the various committees involved in fund raising or support activities. A number of committees are permanent or "standing" committees that endure; other committees are created every year according to the By-Laws. Still other committees (called ad-hoc committees) are created as needed for special purposes, such as hosting a State Tournament.

Committees can range from one person who is designated to do a specific task to situations where the entire Board empowers itself as a "Committee of the Whole." People not on the Board also may be asked to serve on a committee.

This is the organization that players are seldom aware of during a hockey season. While there is no reason for players to be involved, there is every reason for parents to be involved. Parent are what brings an organization to life and allows it to be efficient and effective.

So what's involved in constructing such an organization? That brings us to the second part of our journey.

Formal Paperwork

Let there be no doubt in your mind. You will be incorporating a commercial business in your state - unless you have the good fortune to be part of an existing business-based organization such as a licensed educational institution, a country club, or a commercial business. The good news is that incorporating a business is relatively simple and straight forward.

Fortunately, the groundwork is in place at all levels of government to enable individuals and groups to set up an incorporated business for a hockey team with very little mess or bother. Two significant factors that offer encouragement to set up incorporated businesses for teams are limiting taxes and litigation.

Typical examples of documents used to incorporate and operate a business are provided below - through links - to show the extent to which paperwork needs to be done by organizers of teams before players get on the ice. Examples provided are similar to the documents used for incorporation by high school ice hockey teams in Maryland, but may not be appropriate to the needs of any particular organization - especially in other states. Teams desiring to incorporate in their state should seek legal counsel for obtaining and developing documents necessary and appropriate for their organization and their state's requirements.

A word of caution. Several of these documents are legal in nature and binding upon those who are named. Work with your legal counsel. Do not sign a "standard" form without knowing what the language means and what rights, benefits, requirements, expectations, and obligations are included and involved. To help you through the paperwork maze, we have linked several topics to web pages presenting guidance prepared by existing ice hockey programs, such as the Michigan Amateur Hockey Association. Where the linked guidance is prepared for a District other than your District, please check with your District staff to ensure their guidance is similar.

Team Organization and Management

Finally, a few words about team organization and management. Perhaps most importantly, organizing and managing a high school level ice hockey team is not just about rides, water bottles, and uniforms anymore.

Among other duties and responsibilities, the Coach is responsible for: teaching sportsmanship; training players; recognizing and rewarding their efforts; ensuring fair treatment of and opportunities for all players; establishing how the team operates during practices and games; and implementing a discipline system.

The Team Manager is more like a Chief Executive Officer who is responsible for just about everything else - from getting the team to the right rink at the right time, ensuring the team complies with ice rink contracts, arranging for immediate medical care for an injured player, and representing the Team at meetings. The first rule for new managers to remember is, "There are no stupid questions." The second rule is, "If you are confused about what to do, others are also."

Using a participatory management system - "2 heads are better than 1" - and total quality management style - "concentrate on how your system operates rather than on who has what responsibilities" - can minimize problems when something goes wrong - which it inevitably will. Experience has shown that a good management approach to problem solving is, essentially, "When problems arise or mistakes are made, spend more time fixing the underlying cause of the problems so they don't happen again rather than fixing blame."