ODESSA, TX — A new tradition has been started at the Ector County Coliseum on Monday as Jackalopes welcomed Odessa Jr. Jacks Coach Jere Stewart to practice on Monday as the first Jackalopes Guest Coach of the season.
For Jackalopes head coach Todd Watson the Guest Coaches Program has been a staple of his entire career.
“It’s a program I’ve done my whole coaching career. It gets the youth coaches involved, it gets people interested in our program also it helps generate interest around the area,” said Watson. “With Jere especially we are hoping to recruit women fans, moms, sisters, daughters, to come see us play.”
Coach Stewart is in her fifth year of coaching youth hockey. One of the many coaches for the Odessa Jr. Jacks youth hockey program, the experience of coming out to and running a North American Hockey League Practice is a boon not only for her coaching experience but for the youth players she instructs.
“That’s the benefit of coming out, because you get to take a look at what they do and bring it down to our level,” Stewart said. “Eighty five percent of practices for our junior teams is fundamentals, fundamentals, fundamentals.”
The growth in women’s hockey has been accelerated in recent years with the success of the United States women’s Olympic hockey team and increased participation of women and girls across the country. According to USA Hockey’s 2018-19 report, the Rocky Mountain District (which includes Texas) had over 6,000 women and girls registered. It is a growing demographic within the sport that Coach Watson and the Jackalopes take great pride in fostering.
“Really we’re big on community involvement,” said Watson on the women’s game. “We’re all about supporting it.”