Former University of Maine defenseman and Old Town High School assistant hockey coach Roger Grillo enjoyed making a difference in the lives of his Brown University hockey players.
But he will now have the opportunity to reach many more players in his new role as the regional manager for USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
He will be one of six regional managers and his responsibility will be the six New England states.
The program is designed to supply local hockey associations across the country with a blueprint for player development that focuses on age-appropriate training regimens. It will utilize methods earmarked for long-term development.
He said he will miss Brown University “but it wasn’t a difficult decision.
“I grew up with this game and I am passionate about it. This gives me the opportunity to really help make a difference in the lives of 1,000 kids instead of 20,” said the 45-year-old Grillo, whose uncle Chuck was a long-time high school hockey coach before becoming an NHL scout and San Jose Sharks director of player development.
He was contacted by officials at USA hockey about the job and started it this past week.
“We want to get more kids involved in the game and keep them excited about it. We want to give them the appropriate tools to go as far as they can in the game,” said Grillo, who compiled a 125-228-57 record in his 12 years at Brown. “This is about creating passion for the sport of hockey.”
The program encompasses all aspects of the sport including reducing the expense.
“We want to make it more enjoyable for the families and more enticing [to get involved in it],” said Grillo. “You don’t need the best of everything, you don’t need a $200 stick to be good.”
The new program is based on “years and years of research and talking to the leading people in the development field, not just in hockey, but in all sports in different countries.”
Grillo said that has enabled USA Hockey to develop a blueprint for what is “appropriate for kids at different ages.”
One of the findings, he said, is that players need to have “balance” in their lives.
“If you play a sport year-round at a young age or you play too many games, it isn’t healthy. It’s counter-productive. It hinders development,” said Grillo. “Like anything in life, the more balance you have the better off you are.”
He said players will be encouraged to play other sports as well as hockey.
Grillo is no newcomer to USA Hockey.
He has been a coach at a variety of USA Hockey’s Development camps for 17 years.
The Apple Valley, Minn. native played two years at Maine before beginning his coaching career as an Old Town High School assistant under Gene Fadrigon, now head coach at John Bapst in Bangor.
Grillo went on to coach at Yarmouth High School and lead the Clippers to three State Class B championships.
He coached at Norwich University (Vt.) and then spent seven years as an assistant at the University of Vermont before being hired at Brown.
Grillo knows there will be skeptics but says they won’t “strong-arm” anybody.
“I have a funny feeling that as this starts to take hold, people will come running with open arms. This has been a long time coming,” said Grillo, the father of a 13-year-old hockey player (Dominic).