WHAT PROGRAM? This could easily go under our F.A.Q., but we get the question often enough that we've devoted an entire page to it. It mostly comes from ATOMS parents thinking of doing ATOMS again or moving up to a team.
We'll try and give some tips to help you decide but ultimately it's up to your and your player. If you've completed a season of ATOMS then we feel confident that your players will have the familiarity with the skills in order to improve them quickly. Obviously some players are natural quick learners and thrive on challenges, others may learn new things at their pace and spending more time building confidence is what they need. Parents will be a pretty good judge of that. No Ego's allowed!
Costs - ATOMS is by far the cheapest hockey around. You'll pay $45 at USA Hockey, then $60 (Both Phases) at LAHA and $62 at the Rink for a Season Pass - ATOMS jerseys are included.
To join a Recreational Team, you'll pay $45 at USA Hockey, then $90 at LAHA and $180.25 at the rink for a Season Pass - Rec Team jerseys are included.
House league team registration is included in the Recreational Team registration. Games are played on the weekends at Los Alamos between teams constructed of LAHA players to achieve competitive balance. All House games are non-checking.
Tournament teams are by invitation only. The rosters are chosen by the coaches based on playing skills and other factors. Registration fees for each tournament are divided evenly between the players traveling for each individual tournament. Team jerseys are required and cost ~$65. The teams travel to other rinks and most attend tournaments in New Mexico and Southern Colorado at an additional cost (however they are optional).
Gear Costs are common to both programs.
Time Commitment - ATOMS has the smallest time commitment as well. There are two practices per week at 1.25 hours each. There are no games, but this year we've allotted time on most Saturdays and Sundays for scrimmages. The scrimmages are optional but they certainly are fun and the players have a great time.
Recreational teams also practice twice per week for 1.25 - 1.5 hours each night. Games are played on weekends at all the different rinks in New Mexico. Game schedules are set so that there are typically 2 games played at a venue and a team will usually only play on one day on a weekend. However, there are occassionaly games on both days of a weekend. Teams also occassionally travel to various tournaments during the season.
Most teams will typically play between 15 and 20 games in a season. Away games are played about 2 times per month
Skills Required and Skill Development - While all LAHA programs will focus on fundamental skill development - the ATOMS program spends most of the time on the individual skills of skating, puck control, passing and shooting. ATOMS players are separated by age and ability so that we can have age/level specific instruction and drills. Individual playing rules are introduced along with these skills. Basic Concepts of team play are introduced later in ATOMS but are not a primary focus of the drills and instruction.
Recreational Teams will focus on idividual skills and team skills. Concepts of team play are taught so that the team may compete in organized games. Team and game play rules are taught to the players. Obviously in order to excecute team skills, the basic individual skills must be present. Players will have plenty of opportunities to improve individual skills. Individual Skill proficiency is not required to play.
Candid Answer - ATOMS is structured so that players from Groups B or C can and do move up a group when their skills improve. Going from Group C to a rec team is not uncommon but also not the typical progression for 90% of the players. Staying within the same ATOMS group is also not unheard of. Even the PROS work on fundamental skills and there aren't ANY LAHA players that couldn't use the whole season just for improving fundamental skills. The players' desire to play then becomes the major factor for change. Players in Groups A and B should consider moving to a team at the completion of ATOMS.
Skill progressions come from the following USA Hockey Publication - Skill Progression for Players and Coaches. If you browse this handbook please keep in mind that the skills and knowlege listed for each level are assumed to be taught in that level and not necessarily mastered before the start of that level.
Every player is different, they play for different reasons, they learn and become proficient at different rates. For that reason it is impossible to give a single answer to the question on where to go next.
Don't hesitate to contact the coaches from both levels to get an idea where your specific player might fit the best.