Ice hockey can be a tough sport.
Brendan Flanagan, director of the Igloo Jaguars ice hockey program in Mount Laurel, and 8U head coach Kristina Morro know that. It’s why they developed a Big Brothers program where 14U AA and 15U AA players “adopt” members of the 8U and 10U teams.
“Sports are so much more than just what happens on the field, court, or on the ice,” Flanagan said. “Child development through sport is a such a critical part of (their) development, no matter what the sport or activity is.
“Hockey specifically teaches you to handle a lot of adversity and how to work as a team,” Flanagan added. “By having a sense of community in our organization, we hope to continue to foster that development even further. Developing our young players into successful people, whatever that may be for them, is our number-one goal.”
The hockey program had its Big/Little Brother Day at the at the Igloo Ice Rink in Mount Laurel on Oct. 29.
“It has been a huge success so far,” Flanagan noted. “They have already begun to bond over a short period of time. The benefits have been seen almost immediately. There have been many positive impacts on both sides.
“Our 14s have a responsibility to lead by example and conduct themselves with respect as they develop into young men,” Flanagan added. “For our 8Us, it has given them a positive role model to look up towards and to model themselves after.”
Morro watched her kids grow through the Jaguar program and said the new version will be extremely helpful in all facets of life, not just the game.
“… (It) gives (the littles) great role models to look up to while giving the bigs someone to set an example for,” she observed. “It not only helps them learn the game, but it also helps build our program.”
During Big/Little Brother Day, the bigs were at the rink helping their little brothers get ready for their game. They prepared them in the locker room, cheered them on in the stands and celebrated with them after the game.
The future for the Jaquar program looks bright.
“We have already expanded on the program extending to six more teams,” Flanagan said. “We have paired our 15UAA Elite team with our 10UA team, (the) 16UA Black team with 10UB, and have also added our 14UA Black and Mite C team to the program.
“We are trying to build a sense of community within our program, and this (big/little program) is certainly helping with that.”