The new look England National Team Programme takes another step forward this week with the final stage in the selection process for the 2017 England teams which once again will take place at Ice Sheffield. With more than a hundred of the Association’s top junior players making the trip to Sheffield on Wednesday and Thursday to take part in the final trials for the Under 13, Under 14 and Under 15 England teams, the ENTP staff are facing something of a challenge for selection given the quality of the participants who are hoping they can do enough to secure a place on their respective rosters.

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Head Coach, Ben Pitchley, has spent the past six weeks making arrangements with his senior coaches to ensure that the camp maintains the standards set during the past two events which were also held at Ice Sheffield back in October and August.

He said today. “It’s a busy time of year for most of us with Christmas and New Year, but for me and my team it’s been exceptionally busy as we look to make our final selections for the three England teams, U13, U14 and U15.”

Pitchley added. “Not only that but we have been responding to the call for support from the Junior League Management Committee with their plans to bring about greater integration with Clubs and Conference together with the England National Team Programme and Gary (Apsley) and I have been providing support in establishing the new Power of Ten initiative announced by Jacqueline Pye recently.”

The ENTP December Development Camp started at 6:30 am this morning (Wednesday) and first-up is the U14 and U15 teams who will be meeting-up for their final selection event. U15 team Head Coach, Martyn Etheridge, has re-worked the October camp schedule to provide a more intensive and physically demanding final trial event which has also been adopted by U14 team Head Coach, Chris Salem.

Speaking about the updated schedule Etheridge said. “We know that we have a talented group of players at U15 and U14 and we also have a very good idea of what the Great Britain staff are looking for for their 2017 selections and our job is to get as many of our players ready for GB selection as possible and we also want to raise the bar for performance of our selected teams.

“This is why we felt the need to increase the technical and physical demands at this forthcoming camp so that our players understand exactly what will be required of them if they are to make the step-up to Great Britain Under 16’s in 2017 and beyond.”

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On Thursday morning, again with a start time of 6:30 am, the U13 England hopefuls will be joined on their Development Camp with 44 of the most talented ten year old players who will be taking part in the new Power of Ten programme which has also been designed by Pitchley and Apsley on behalf of the JLMC. The England U13 team programme was resumed at the beginning of October and so far the U13’s initiative seems to be gathering a great deal of traction as interest is re-established among the junior Clubs.

Leading the U13 team is Guildford Coach, Mark Saunders who is really excited at the prospect of working with the England’s current youngest team, he said. “This age group was the group I really wanted to work with. These players have a year or two of Conference experience already and yet they are still so eager to learn new skills and show me what they can do.”

The development camp provides a real challenge for all of the players taking part. There is a mix of on ice drills and competitive games, off ice fitness, strength and conditioning, and also classroom sessions with guest lectures and video presentations, all designed to provide the players with the very best opportunities to inspire, motivate and improve in all areas of the game and the preparations for it.

Leading the off ice activities will be the ENTP’s recently appointed Strength and Conditioning Coach, Matt Croyle who has taken over the lead role from Steve Nightingale. Matt is based in Sheffield and attended the October camp so he already has experience of the ENTP events and he is also looking forward to helping deliver part of the legacy for the new look England programme.

This third ENTP camp is the final selection event as the U13, u14 and U15 Coaches will be cutting their rosters down to the final 20 players which will consist of 2 netminders, 6 defensemen and 12 forwards. Each of the three England teams will follow the same selection philosophy and the idea is to try and provide a consistent and coherent approach across all of the teams that supports the idea of succession and progression.

The respective Head Coaches of the three teams have all identified how they need to prepare their players not only for the England Development Event taking place in Prague in April, but they also have an eye on player progression through to the GB trials which currently start at U16 level with the trials for 2017/18 team taking place next July/August.

The EIHA’s Director in charge of the England Programme, Geoff Hemmerman, is pleased with the progress being made by his team so far but he is quick to point out that the work on re-building the Association’s flagship programme has only just begun.

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He said: “My staff have done a great job so far and I know that they have all spent countless hours in discussion and in the planning for the ENTP events. I don’t think many people appreciate just how much work goes on behind the scenes to make the events we’ve run so successful. But I do now the efforts our staff go to and it shows in the quality of the delivery of our programme and that is something that we can all be proud of.

“I’ve said before that we are facing a number of significant challenges as we look to re-organise how our sport is governed and managed. Between the EIHA and Ice Hockey UK there is a huge amount of work to be done and I am pleased that the dialogue between the key stakeholders has started and meetings have been arranged.

“I’d like to think that over the coming weeks and months we will see the green-shoots of transformation beginning to appear with collaboration moving in to full-swing as we all begin to work closer together to deliver better opportunities for all of our players regardless of the level they participate. I think it’s a really exciting time and I hope that the players in the current England programme will reap the benefits of some new joined-up thinking.”

The England teams will be announced in early January 2017 with the final development camp being held in February and the trip to Prague in April.