By Stephanie Dolan
The South Indy Youth Hockey Association has a vision to create a youth organization that is recognized as the blueprint by which other youth organizations are built through a focus on family, experience and service.
The association’s mission is to instill six principles into their players: integrity, honesty, teamwork, fairness, respect and commitment.
“We’d been around for a decade or so, and about two years ago we decided to join forces with Indy Junior Fuel,” league president Jeff Fanter said. “At the time, there was talk of a possible rink in Greenwood that would be owned by the same folks that owned the pro team. We’d grown to over 200 kids playing hockey, and it made sense at that time to merge with the Fuel.”
Fanter said that the organization was attracted to the proposed structure and support system that would have been in place as a part of the Junior Fuel, but the plans for the new Southside rink never came to fruition.
“We worked with them for two years, but it did put a demand on families,” Fanter, 47, of Greenwood, said. “We were having to travel up to Indy or Fishers to practice during the week. It started to raise questions from families asking how we could bring it all back to Perry Park.”
Back to being SIYHA
Now SIYHA is back to being SIYHA, and they are housed out of Perry Park.
“This really cuts down on travel time for our families,” Fanter said. “Plenty of research shows that hockey grows the more local you can keep it. That’s how things have evolved over time.”
At one time, Fanter was the commissioner of ECAC, the collegiate ice hockey conference. He ran four NCAA conferences.
“But I can’t even skate,” he said. “My son is far more skilled on the ice than I am.”
Fanter said that, now, the plan is to remain focused on the development of the children who want to learn how to play the game.
“It’s not about winning and losing,” he said. “Everybody wants to be competitive, and certainly gets excited when they win a game. But our focus is how we’re going to develop kids on the ice and how they’re going to interact and engage with teammates.”
Fanter said good behavior within the team is also indicative of good behavior in general.
“This isn’t a development program to send kids off to play at a college level,” he continued. “What we offer is an entry level to travel hockey to expose kids to the game. Certainly, we see kids go on to bigger and better things from there. We have one sheet of ice to work with and as long as people are realistic about what we can offer at Perry, I think it’s a great environment for kids to learn to develop and play. We’ve got some great coaches helping kids do that.”
“Noah has been with SIYHA since 2014, and Liam’s first year was 2016,” Patrick Haggan said of his kids.
Noah is 9, and Liam is 7.
“They love it,” Haggan said. “Social interaction is a big one when you’re practicing and playing in a sport like that. You become very close. They tend to follow certain rules pretty closely because they know the importance of doing so and doing what you’re told. They’re very healthy. It gives them a lot of exercise.”
Haggan said he enjoys the uniqueness of the game.
“Knowing they’re physically active, they’re interacting with other kids and doing something they enjoy makes me happy as a parent,” he said.
Shannon Sizemore’s son, Oscar, has been with the team since he was 8. He is now 12.
Persistence and hard work
“I think with his coach he’s learned to work hard and stay persistent,” she said. “He’s learned that nothing is given, and everything is earned.”
Sizemore also said that it makes her feel good to see her son so active at a sport that he enjoys so much.
“We always say it’s not necessarily the sport that’s going to take you far but the things you learn while being on a team, the friendships made and the family time spent together,” she said. “It’s almost forced family time when you’re traveling away for the weekend. We have a 15-year-old daughter. She’s met older sisters on the team that she’s friends with. We wouldn’t have these experiences otherwise.”
Eli Clark’s experience with the team has been long and exciting, as he’s now 13 and has been with the team since he was 4.
“He loves it,” his mom, Krisi, said. “He’s officially addicted. Every year, I think he gets more excited. This will be his third year on the travel team, and I can’t stop him from hitting the puck around the house every single day. His big sister, Zoe, is one of the loudest people on the rink.”
Clark says Eli’s time on the team has instilled in him a really good work ethic.
“He strives to always finish everything, work his hardest, get faster, quicker,” she said. “He’s really come a long way. I can’t imagine not playing hockey. He loves it. He’ll go as far as he can. We like it because the rink is very close and it’s a really family atmosphere. Everyone is included.”
“This will be our fourth year,” Tyler Klassen said of his son, Benjamin, who is 9.
“He loves it,” he continued. “We’re glad we can play out of Perry again. It’s much more of a community there. The friends that he’s made are incredible. We now play lacrosse as well and at least a quarter of that team is from hockey. It’s fantastic for both the kids and the parents. A lot of my friends are parents from the team as well.”
“I am just a small part of this,” Fanter said. “There are a lot of volunteers – parents and families who play a huge role in doing this. Part of the reason I committed to this is because we have so many great families who want to volunteer their time to not only their own children but also others in the program. It’s unique to see how families care for others in the program. We have coaches who have no child in the program. It’s a good time commitment to be out there. They just want to help out with our organization.”
For more information on SIYHA, visit the website at siyha.org.
5 Questions with Jeff Fanter
Who or what inspires you? My wife, Valere Fanter. She’d be a “who.” What inspires me is watching my kids develop into fine young adults by learning from others that may be older than them – or younger than them. Or when they learn in an environment that’s not one with which we would always associate learning. I don’t think people realize how much kids take away from being part of a sports team.
What’s your favorite sport? Definitely hockey.
What’s your favorite position on the team? Forward
Who’s your favorite team? Chicago Blackhawks
What’s your favorite sports-themed movie? Miracle