August 26, 2013

From NEHJ: Prep primer

For the region’s prep school hockey teams, the competition begins long before the first game of the season is played. Attracting prospective student-athletes can be a battle on several fronts. From a hockey standpoint, many higher-end players are lured toward junior hockey, which they believe might set them up better for college and professional success.

From a financial standpoint, high tuition and unfamiliarity with the financial-aid process could keep many potential applicants staying with public schools. Once a player decides the prep route is the way to go, there are dozens of options to consider, more than 60 schools in New England alone.

New England Hockey Journal caught up with 15 of them to discuss why those who choose the prep route will discover that the combination of athletics and academics is unmatched by what they could find anywhere else.

Avon Old Farms

Year established: 1927

School address: 500 Old Farms Road, Avon, CT 06001

Headmaster: Kenneth H. LaRocque

Boys hockey head coach: John Gardner

Director of admissions: Brendon Welker ’91

School website: www.AvonOldFarms.com

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? Since 1927, Avon Old Farms has been a leader in preparing young men for higher education, and the world. Avon is a dynamic community of learning with a rigorous curriculum anchored in the liberal arts. By understanding boys — and with appreciation for their sense of humor, their energy and how they learn — we have created the kind of environment where our students are able to become their best selves.

Avon is conveniently located in the heart of the Farmington River Valley. Our founder, Theodate Pope Riddle, an accomplished American architect, created a campus with the feel of an English village on 1,000 acres of Connecticut countryside. The Cotswold-inspired architecture reflects the traditional approach to education that is so successful here.

What’s one part of prep-school life that might surprise a student-athlete considering attending your school? Another way Avon boys come together is through the arts. Our rich and varied programs in music and the visual and performing arts provide many opportunities for boys to express themselves creatively and form meaningful connections with peers. Our students have been honored locally, regionally and nationally for their creative accomplishments. Most impressive, however, Avon is a place where you can draw, paint, play an instrument, sing or act, whether you have had years of experience or none.

Canterbury School

Year established: 1915

School address: 101 Aspectuck Ave., New Milford, CT 06776

Headmaster: Tom Sheehy

Boys hockey head coach: Paddy McCarthy

Girls hockey head coach: Peter Lavigne

Director of admissions: Matt Mulhern

School website: www.cbury.org

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? Our hilltop campus is surrounded by acres of well-groomed lawns, fields and vistas that is within walking distance to an active New England town.

How far in advance should a prospective student-athlete start looking at your school? Student-athletes should begin to look at Canterbury during their eighth- or ninth-grade year.

What’s one part of prep-school life that might surprise a student-athlete considering attending your school? The sense of community at Canterbury will strike anyone who visits.

How much of a time commitment is hockey in a student-athlete’s daily/weekly life? During the season, approximately 18 to 20 hours a week. This estimate includes practice, games and travel.

Besides practices and games, what else does your program offer to advance a player’s hockey career? Top-notch College Counseling Office, experienced coaching staff, strength and conditioning program, captain leadership program, game video/analysis.

What are the success stories you share with prospective players and their parents about your alumni’s accomplishments in the hockey world? Recent college placement: Connecticut College, Wesleyan, Tufts, Trinity, Hobart, St. Anselm, Delaware, as well as the USHL.

Cardigan Mountain School

Year established: 1945

School address: 62 Alumni Drive, Canaan, NH 03741

Headmaster: David J. McCusker Jr., ’80

Boys hockey head coach: Patrick Turcotte

Girls hockey head coach: N/A

Director of admissions: Chip Audett

School website: www.cardigan.org

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? Firstly, Cardigan is an all-boys junior boarding school enrolling students in grades 6-9. Our “whole-boy” approach focuses on the academic, athletic and social-emotional growth and development of each boy, with daily life centered on the school’s core values of “Compassion, Honesty, Respect, Integrity, Scholarship and Fairness.”

How far in advance should a prospective student-athlete start looking at your school? We work on a rolling admission basis, accepting applications throughout the year as space is available. We recommend that families complete the application process by the end of February prior to the desired year of enrollment, particularly if financial aid is a consideration.

How much of a time commitment is hockey in a student-athlete’s daily/weekly life? During the season (winter), players train six days per week for approximately two to two-and-a-half hours per day, including two to three games each week. In the fall and spring seasons, each student participates in other sports, which we believe enhances his overall athleticism. As we offer a program for all levels of experience and skill, this approach provides opportunities for boys to try new sports should they desire.

What do Cardigan families say about their experience with the school? “Cardigan fosters the development of a sense of respect and responsibility beyond one’s self to an age group that, in other settings, is being ‘taught’ to worry about themselves first and then be concerned with others later.” — Scott Borek, associate head coach, UNH, CMS parent ’10,’12,’15

“Cardigan Mountain School has empowered our grandson with skills and tools necessary for success in life academically, socially, athletically and spiritually that, hopefully, will motivate him to become a leader wherever his life’s journey takes him.” — Donald “Toot” Cahoon, former head coach, UMass Amherst, Princeton, CMS grandparent ’12

Cushing Academy

Year established: 1865

School address: 39 School Street, Ashburnham, MA 01430

Headmaster: Christopher Torino

Boys hockey head coach: Rob Gagnon

Girls hockey head coach: Paul Kennedy

Director of admissions: Deborah Gustafson, Adam Payne

School website: www.cushing.org

What are the athletic benefits for a hockey player going the prep-school route? Players get exposure to college coaches, experience great competition, and their schedule allows for academic success.

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? Cushing’s hockey rink is running all year long — most prep schools don’t have this luxury. Additionally, we are in a very central location — central Massachusetts and central New England.

How far in advance should a prospective student-athlete start looking at your school? While it depends on each family, we suggest looking in the fall of the previous academic year.

How much of a time commitment is hockey in a student-athlete’s daily/weekly life? Typically three hours per day, 18-21 hours per week.

Besides practices and games, what else does your program offer to advance a player’s hockey career? Weight training, video, support/coaching from alumni who are professional hockey players. Hockey players have access to the ice all year long and are encouraged to take advantage of this opportunity.

What are the success stories you share with prospective players and their parents about your alumni’s accomplishments in the hockey world? Cushing has many success stories of players moving on to play at the highest level of college and the NHL. For example, Keith Yandle ’05 is currently an NHL All-Star. We’ve also had five Olympians (three males, two females).

Dexter School

Year established: 1926

School address: 20 Newton Street, Brookline, MA 02445

Headmaster: Todd Vincent

Boys hockey head coach: Dan Donato

Girls hockey head coach: Shannon Tarrant

Director of admissions: Bill Southwick and Clare Martin

School website: www.dextersouthfield.org         

What are the athletic benefits for a hockey player going the prep-school route? Great exposure to some of the top academic/hockey schools.

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? Academic rigor, two rinks and proximity to Boston.

How far in advance should a prospective student-athlete start looking at your school? One year in advance.

What’s one part of prep-school life that might surprise a student-athlete considering attending your school? Faculty/student relationships and small class sizes.

How much of a time commitment is hockey in a student-athlete’s daily/weekly life? Two-and-a-half hours daily (approximately 10-12 hours per week).

Besides practices and games, what else does your program offer to advance a player’s hockey career? College connections and contacts.

What are the success stories you share with prospective players and their parents about your alumni’s accomplishments in the hockey world? Many alumni playing Division 1 and Division 3 hockey. We just had a player drafted by the Calgary Flames (Tim Harrison).

The Gunnery

Year established: 1850

School address: 99 Green Hill Road, Washington, CT 06793

Headmaster: Peter Becker

Boys hockey head coach: Chris Baudo

Girls hockey head coach: Harry Geary

School website: www.gunnery.org

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? The Gunnery is located in Washington, Conn. The campus showcases the natural beauty of the Litchfield Hills, and we are located directly next to Steep Rock Land Preserve, two thousand acres of forest, trails and streams. Our campus feels a lot like home, something we hear often from families returning from tours and alums coming back to visit. We are equipped with the latest technology in our dorms and classrooms, yet we remain aesthetically true to the old New England look and feel.

Besides practices and games, what else does your program offer to advance a player’s hockey career?  We basically serve as the “family advisor” for each of our kids. We market them tirelessly throughout the year, whether the summer, fall, winter or spring. Our program’s success has created close relationships with all Division 1 and Division 3 college coaches in the East and into the Midwest. They trust our assessment, and those relationships provide the kids with the best opportunity to play at the next level. We also educate our families through presentations on the college hockey landscape, recruiting and their taking an active and positive part in the process. These group and individual family/player meetings become invaluable when combined with what The Gunnery also does through our college office. We watch film, talk about the mental preparation aspect of sports, and engage in constant discussion about achieving their goals. Unlike college, we experience the benefit of seeing these kids every day in different and unique settings. Our relationships with them can be even stronger due to such an environment and culture.

What are the success stories you share with prospective players and their parents about your alumni’s accomplishments in the hockey world? 27 Division 1 commitments over the past five years; two NHL draft picks; five consecutive Prep West league championships; 4 Elite Eight Tournament appearances in the past five years; 50-plus Division 3 commitments; a Hobey Baker finalist and multiple all-league collegians; 10 alumni playing pro at the beginning of last year.

What are the other critical elements of your recruitment process? The key to any of this is what you sell beyond the hockey. The hockey sells itself. We focus on developing our boys into young men of high character. We attract high-quality families, and thus we continue the work already begun by the parents. We set high expectations regarding character, decision making, respect for others, and idea of giving back. We share with prospective families statistics even more important than hockey, with those being kids from our team on honor roll, in leadership positions, serving as captains of other sport teams, and so on. We are most proud of what our guys do outside of the rink, and culturally they take great pride in it as well. 

The Harvey School

Year established: 1916

School address: 260 Jay St., Katonah, NY 10536

Headmaster: Barry Fenstermacher

Boys selects hockey head coach: Dennis Canfield

Boys varsity hockey head coach: Tim Halewicz

Director of admissions: William Porter

School website: www.Harveyselects.com

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? One of the best parts of the Harvey Campus is its proximity to New York City. We use the city as a resource for cultural exposure and education. Lincoln Center, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, the Museum of Modern Art and the American Museum of Natural History are all on our “field trip curriculum” as we integrate the world around us into our player’s academic and social education.

What’s one part of prep-school life that might surprise a student-athlete considering attending your school? Honestly, the fact is that at Harvey, it’s not really prep-school life. It’s more like junior hockey life for young athletes, in the best sense. Teamwork, camaraderie, development and family life. Unlike other prep programs, our players billet with either the families of their local teammates or pre-screened Harvey School families who support the academy’s mission. Our players live together, play together, study together and travel together for nine months. It is a very intense life, but one we feel is very beneficial for our kids because the life of a college athlete is very intense and you need to prepare for it to succeed. Our boys will be better prepared than most.

How much of a time commitment is hockey in a student-athlete’s daily/weekly life? Anyone attending the Harvey Selects Academy must be prepared for a full-time commitment. We have structured a completely dedicated academic schedule and program to accommodate the passionate pursuit of hockey by these young athletes. It is a full 12-hour per day schedule of ice time, off-ice training, chalk talk, video review, classes, study halls, academic enrichment and extra help. Not to mention breakfast, lunch and dinner on campus, advisor meetings, clubs, etc.

Besides practices and games, what else does your program offer to advance a player’s hockey career? We take full advantage of the resources at our disposal and have a comprehensive and adaptive strength and conditioning program as well as an on-ice skills development program that is shared, in the U.S., by only a few organizations — UNH, the U.S. NTDP and the Chicago Young Americans. That said, I know of a number of NHL teams that are looking to bring it on as part of their ongoing skills development efforts as well as for their prospects.

Being in the Northeast, we are in the heart of NCAA, NAIA and NESCAC hockey. We have access to all these coaches to showcase our players and the Harvey College Guidance has access to all their admissions personnel as well. Furthermore, with a former junior coach as our head coach and a 15-year NHL player and All-Star as our director of player development and on-ice assistant, we believe we can fast track those kids who have the talent and drive to succeed.

Kents Hill School

Director of athletics, head coach boys varsity hockey: Larry Cockrell

What are the athletic benefits for a hockey player going the prep-school route? The New England Prep School Ice Hockey Association (NEPSIHA) is an excellent league. Yearly players from many different programs get recruited for Division 1, 2 and 3 college hockey, and a handful get drafted into the NHL. Across the board, the coaching ranks within the league are filled with many who played college and even pro, and the level of player development and system play is very high. What I particularly like is the practice-to-game ratio and the relationships that are developed between coach and player. Not only do we work with our players on the ice, but also we live on campus and teach them in the classroom.

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? In the 10 year that I have been head coach at Kents Hill, I have seen the campus transform itself. The school has always been beautiful, but with the addition of the Alfond Athletic Center, which includes a rink, basketball court and fitness center, as well as a huge turf field facility, we have some of the finest athletic facilities in the league.

How much of a time commitment is hockey in a student-athlete’s daily/weekly life? Hockey at Kents Hill is intense and there is a serious time commitment. We are on the ice six of seven days a week, and we travel throughout New England to play the most competitive schedule we can.

Besides practices and games, what else does your program offer to advance a player’s hockey career? We really strive to improve the fundamentals of our players so they have the foundation to go to the next level and play in any system. A big part of that process is the development of the person as well. Accountability, work ethic, ownership and commitment— not only one’s own goals, but the team’s goals — are the foundation of our program. We also emphasize strength and conditioning both on and off the ice.

Lawrence Academy   

Year established: 1793

School address: P.O. Box 992, Groton, MA 01450

Headmaster: Dan Schiebe

Boys hockey head coach: Robbie Barker

Girls hockey head coach: Kevin Potter

Director of admissions: Rob Olsen

School website: www.lacademy.edu

Northwood School

Director of admissions: Tim Weaver

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? Northwood School is unique because of our location. The Olympic village of Lake Placid, N.Y., is less than a mile from campus and offers our student-athletes an unlimited array of activities. Our hockey players have access to the three sheets of ice at The Olympic Center. Lake Placid is simply the best boarding-school town in the country.

What’s one part of prep-school life that might surprise a student-athlete considering attending your school? The most surprising aspect of prep school life for most students is the close relationships that they develop with peers and teachers. The family-like atmosphere allows students to feel supported in all their endeavors at prep school.

How much of a time commitment is hockey in a student-athlete’s daily/weekly life? Hockey is a big time commitment at Northwood. Our extended season begins in early October and ends in mid-March. Our players are on the ice an average of five days a week. They are often traveling on weekends to tournaments across the Northeast. They are also expected to be in the fitness center five to six days a week. The combination of ice time, off-ice workouts and travel means our student-athletes have to focus on time management to meet all of their academic and athletic obligations.

What are the success stories you share with prospective players and their parents about your alumni’s accomplishments in the hockey world? We are proud of our long history of success at placing players in strong collegiate programs and beyond. Most of our best stories revolve around our players who, through hard work in the classroom and on the ice, are able to open more doors at the college level.

St. George’s

Director of admissions: Ryan Mulhern

What are the athletic benefits for a hockey player going the prep-school route? In prep
schools, athletics and academics have the proper balance.

How far in advance should a prospective student-athlete start looking at your school? A year in advance is appropriate — a summer inquiry, a fall or winter visit, and a spring decision.

What’s one part of prep-school life that might surprise a student-athlete considering your school? Our hockey players become better athletes by playing other sports.

How much of a time commitment is hockey in a student-athlete’s daily/weekly life? Sixteen to 20 hours a week during the hockey season. Most of the players also make time to train in the offseason.

St. Thomas More School

Year established: 1962

Address: 45 Cottage Road, Oakdale, CT 06370

Headmaster: James F. Hanrahan Jr.

Hockey coach: Alex Savioli

Director of admissions: Todd Holt

School website: www.stmct.org

What are the athletic benefits for a hockey player going the prep-school route? It gives the student-athlete the opportunity to play against some of the best competition in the Northeast.

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? We have a tight-knit community that does its best to get everyone involved.

How far in advance should a prospective student-athlete start looking at your school? We have student athletes who start the process over a year in advance as well as enrolling mid-year due to our rolling admissions policy.

What’s one part of prep-school life that might surprise a student-athlete considering attending your school? The support all of our athletic teams receive from our entire STM community.

How much of a time commitment is hockey in a student-athlete’s daily/weekly life? Here at STM we balance athletics and academics to ensure our student athletes are successful in both endeavors.

Besides practices and games, what else does your program offer to advance a player’s hockey career? Our coaching staff does a great job placing the student-athlete where he will succeed both athletically and academically.

What are the success stories you share with prospective players and their parents about your alumni’s accomplishments in the hockey world? Many of our players have gone on to play D3, D1 and USHL hockey. STM’s goal is to place all of students at a college or university to further achieve their athletic and academic goals.

Thayer Academy

Year established: 1877

School address: 745 Washington Street, Braintree, MA 0218

Headmaster: Ted Koskores

Director of athletics: Matt McGuirk

Boys hockey coach: Tony Amonte

Girls hockey coach: TBA

Admissions director: Jon White

Contact: 781-664-2221

School website: www.thayer.org

Leagues: Membership in ISL, NEPSAC

Mission statement: Thayer Academy’s mission is to inspire a diverse community of students to moral, intellectual, aesthetic, and physical excellence so that each may rise to honorable achievement and contribute to the common good.

Vermont Academy

Year established: 1876

School address: 10 Long Walk, Saxtons River, VT 05154

Headmaster: Sean Brennan

Boys hockey head coach: Chris Davidson

Girls hockey head coach: Lisa Wilson

Director of admissions: Jenn Calver (associate director)

School website: www.vermontacademy.org

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? Vermont Academy is a 515-acre campus nestled in the foothills of the Green Mountains, with beautiful red brick buildings, sprawling playing fields and forests, and exceptional resources to help our students explore their many interests — both academic and otherwise.

What’s one part of prep-school life that might surprise a student-athlete considering attending your school? Many student-athletes choose to attend prep school to specialize in one specific sport; for example, hockey. However, many Vermont Academy students may think of him/herself as a hockey player when they arrive, but once you truly become a member of the Vermont Academy community, often times you discover hidden talents in other areas, whether they be other sports, the arts or forensic science. The opportunities to try new things and explore your interests are limitless.

How much of a time commitment is hockey in a student-athlete’s daily/weekly life? During the hockey season, our student-athletes will practice on-ice for about one hour and a half every day of the week except for game days — the only day off from hockey is Sunday. Typically, games are on Wednesdays and Saturdays, and often on Fridays as well. However, our athletes typically spend about one hour each practice day doing some form of off-ice training and/or meeting with the coaching staff and linemates to discuss strategy and to analyze film. In the offseason, our athletes are provided with several training programs to best prepare for the season, and most athletes spend about one hour each day of some form of hockey training.

Besides practices and games, what else does your program offer to advance a player’s hockey career? One of the greatest advantages of the Vermont Academy hockey program is the guidance and advice throughout the player’s career, particularly as it relates to the college process. Most of our student-athletes strive to play hockey at the collegiate level, and our coaching staff (boys and girls) consists of former college hockey coaches who understand the process in and out and are with each student every step of the way as he/she prepares for playing at the next level.

Westminster School

Year established: 1888 (it’s our 125th anniversary)

School address: 995 Hopmeadow Street, Simsbury, CT 06070

Headmaster: William Philip

Boys hockey head coach: Tim Joncas (Westminster class of 2000)

Girls hockey head coach: David Pope

Director of admissions: Jon Deveaux

School website: www.Westminster-School.org

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? Our size (390 students, 90 faculty), our location adjacent to a great New England downtown, and our academic program. But what’s most unique is what we spend a lot of time on, our core values — community, character, balance and involvement, underpinned by our motto, “Grit & Grace.” These combine to create a unique and compelling experience. It’s a way of life for our community and plays out in all we do, from the classroom, to the stage, to dorm life and especially on the ice. This is ultimately the great advantage for our alumni.

What’s one part of prep-school life that might surprise a student-athlete considering attending your school? A couple of highlights include:

Our campus — the size and location make it ideal, living, working and playing in such a close and focused community.

The furthest we travel for an away game is 90 minutes. This means that student-athletes are not missing classes, meals or study hours for athletic competition.

Time management — Students are forced to learn how to compartmentalize their days so that they maximize their potential in each of the areas that they must perform in each day, whether it be the classroom, the art studio, the band or the rink.

The full program — you can’t be merely an athlete. All our students participate and excel in all aspects of school life, from the arts, to community service, to clubs and organizations.

Recent success — with two championship teams (boys and girls), Westminster consistently competes at the highest level.

What are the success stories you share with prospective players and their parents about your alumni’s accomplishments in the hockey world? Alumni in the big leagues — most recently, we have two players in the NHL. Ben Smith (Class of 2006) with the Stanley Cup-winning Chicago Blackhawks, and Tommy Cross (Class of 2008) with the Bruins organization. And this isn’t just in hockey— we have alumni who have played at the professional level in most Westminster sports.

What does your hockey program place the most emphasis on? Westminster’s hockey program is built on character and integrity. We have enjoyed a long, successful tradition in our hockey program but we have never placed all of the emphasis on winning alone. We feel that winning is a nice consequence of all the work that our student-athletes put in to everything that they do here at Westminster. The synergy that exists between the academic and athletic portions of our days teaches our student-athletes the importance of living balanced lives. The skills our kids learn here are transferable to the colleges they attend. Our emphasis as a school has never been on just developing athletes. We feel that it is our obligation as an institution to develop people who will go off and live selfless, devoted and balanced lives, and who will be responsible citizens in the communities in which they live.

Williston Northampton School

Year established: 1841

School address: 19 Payson Avenue, Easthampton, MA 01027

Headmaster: Robert W. Hill III

Boys hockey head coach: Derek Cunha

Girls hockey head coach: Christa Talbot ’98

Director of admissions: Christopher Dietrich

School website: www.williston.com

What are the athletic benefits for a hockey player going the prep-school route? At Williston, our players have access to a full-time strength and conditioning coach, exceptional training facilities and rink, a full-time training staff, video breakdown software, and almost unlimited access to a sheet of ice. Just as we are providing our students with the tools to be successful in the classroom with technology, such as our one-to-one tablet program and teacher support, a hockey player has a lot of resources at his or her disposal to further the goal of playing at the next level and being a successful student-athlete.

What makes your campus stand out from other schools in the region? Williston is truly unique in that it is a boarding school that has a beautiful campus with a mountain range as a backdrop, yet we have almost an urban feel. We are fortunate to have five colleges within a 10- to 20-minute ride off campus, which enhances our academic program. The Williston Scholar classes, co-taught by Williston teachers and college professors, are an excellent opportunity for students to challenge themselves. Our campus location in Easthampton is connected to an active downtown area so our students can walk to pizza shops, restaurants, cafes, and a grocery store within five minutes.

What’s one part of prep-school life that might surprise a student-athlete considering attending your school? I think players are often surprised by the social offerings on the weekends. Since we try to emphasize a balance of academics, athletics and social life, our players find that on the weekends they have the opportunity to take part in on-campus dances and events, or get off campus with trips to the movies, hockey games at UMass, and even Boston and New York City. A lot of our players come from travel programs where they play every weekend and are always on the road — we actually give them back some of the time to be teenagers and enjoy their friends.

What is the level of competition that Williston faces during the season? Year in and year out we play one of the toughest schedules in all of New England, providing our players the chance to play against the best competition and offer them unmatched exposure to college and professional scouts. Our opening schedule alone consists of our first four games against KUA, Salisbury, Cushing and Gunnery, and the list is equally challenging as we progress to the likes of Nobles, St. Sebastian’s, Berkshire, Westminster, Deerfield. You can see there are no off nights when you play at Williston.

All action photos: Dave Arnold/New England Hockey Journal

This article originally appeared in the August 2013 issue of New England Hockey Journal.