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Junior Sharks clinics propel girls to next skills level

By Rick Menning

NORTHFORD, CT --When Lauren Wiggins greets her newest group of participants in the Junior Sharks Learn To Play Hockey Clinics that begin Oct. 24 at Northford Ice Pavilion, she will start with a simple yet important pep talk.

"I always try to teach the girls that it's okay to mess up; it's okay to fall down on the ice because you're trying so hard in a drill," said Wiggins, the head coach of the instruction for girls of ages 12-19. "My coach used to always tell me that if you don't fall you're not trying hard enough."

The 20 Sunday afternoon sessions include those who are typically new to hockey or want to improve on their basic skills. The goal for most participants, Wiggins explained, is to either make one of the Sharks' travel teams or have a better shot at a roster spot on their high school squads.

Junior Sharks clinic participants line up along the blue line as they prepare to learn stickwork and other skills. (File photo credit: Shoreline Sharks)

"Building confidence and resilience is the key," added Wiggins, who coached the girls' team for many years at Branford High School. "As long as you have the right attitude and want to try your hardest you can accomplish what you want to accomplish."

Continuing through March 20, each one-hour session consists of stations at which the girls rotate around during approximately 10 minute intervals.

Initiating with skating drills, participants then advance to such integral aspects of the sport as forward stride, edges, crossovers and stopping. Then it's on to puck handling, passing and shooting, to name a few.

Small-area games happen at the end of each session to allow players to practice their skills in a game-like environment. This incorporates everything that has been learned that day including positioning, rules and teamwork.

The highlight of the 20 weeks of clinic instruction is when the girls get to compete in an end-of-season scrimmage against one of the Sharks travel teams. (File photo credit: Shoreline Sharks)

"We then try to end each session with some sort of fun game where they can actually use the skills they have learned in a real-time setting," Wiggins said.

Along with the Junior Sharks clinics, there is a Sand Sharks program for those ages 4 and up consisting of 28 sessions. That also starts Oct. 24.

"All our (Sharks) clinics are really all about pushing those basic skills and teaching them all the little ins and outs of hockey," Wiggins said.

With some girls who might not be in the right mindset to achieve their goals, Wiggins can also help them feel more comfortable in their pursuit of their dreams.

"Some are at that awkward stage where they are either shy or don't have the right (approach)," Wiggins said. "Some don't feel like they will fit in but after I talk to them and they tell me they really want to make a team, I and the coaching staff at the clinics can work with them to be successful."

Basic skating skills are recommended for the clinics as it allows participants to learn hockey while improving skating techniques. However, non-skaters are welcome to register.

"Our team of coaches is prepared to make learning how to skate fun, and will use walkers and other aids to help with balance and accelerate the development process," noted Shoreline Sharks Hockey Marketing Director Pam Miller.

For cost and other details about either the clinics or the basic skating programs, visit

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