Center of Excellence
Widelski adds Leadership and Infrastructure to TPH Team
TPH is proud to announce that Riitta Widelski has joined the company in a newly created position titled Manager of People, Culture and Development. In her role, Riitta will be responsible for strengthening Human Resources-related infrastructure as well as working alongside TPH’s executive leadership team to improve synergy across the company, and innovate new ways for its team members to grow as leaders.
“Riitta is detailed, experienced and most importantly, passionate about her work,” TPH CEO Nathan Bowen said. “With our company growing at an accelerated pace, we felt it would be important to identify someone like Riitta to bring onto our team to help us improve what is currently in place, but also help us prepare to take another step forward. We are also excited about what Riitta is going to do to help our people improve. If the leaders and mentors in TPH grow and develop, we feel we will be in that much better of a position to make the student-athletes under our direction better. We hope our families, partners and prospective partners view Riitta’s hire as us further committing to our vision, which is to become the world-leader in positively impacting the lives of student-athletes through sport.”
A native of Finland, Riitta brings 15 years of experience managing employee relations activities, employee hiring and training, leadership training and mentoring, as well as first-hand work in administration, compliance and policy implementation to TPH. She received Master of Human Resources and International Master of Business Administration degrees from the University of South Carolina. In addition, she holds Human Resources certifications and is a certified life coach.
“I am excited about the opportunity to join the TPH Team and contribute to the growth and development of the company. I look forward to working with the team to provide the best possible programs and sharing my passion for my work and youth development in this new role.”
All of us in TPH join CEO Nathan Bowen in welcoming Riitta to the team.
TPH St. Louis adds staff, continues to see success through pandemic
(ST. LOUIS) – TPH and its Center of Excellence (CoE) in St. Louis are thrilled to add two more staff members to its family. Molly Porfidio has joined the team as an Academic Success Coach, and Ryan Hurston has been added as the Assistant Strength and Conditioning Coach.
“For the development and growth of our student-athletes, Molly and Ryan will add an extra layer of accountability and instruction that will allow our students to take ownership for their development and be the best they can be,” said Philip McRae, Director of Hockey-Operation at TPH St. Louis.
Molly earned her Bachelor’s degree from Missouri State University where she double-majored in Secondary Education and English. In addition to being a licensed teacher in Missouri, Molly is also currently pursuing a Master’s degree in higher education from Lindenwood University. In her previous role, Molly worked for Lindenwood Athletics within the Academic Success Center, helping to mentor and monitor the academic progress of their student-athletes.
Ryan Hurston joins Head Strength and Conditioning Coach Bret Kelly in TPH St. Louis’ off-ice training of its students. Ryan will be assisting Bret and TPH’s student-athletes in the gym a minimum of twice a week. Ryan attended DePauw University and earned a degree in Kinesiology. He’s also on staff at Mercy Sports Performance in Maryland Heights.
“It’s going to be more hands-on training and instruction for individual student-athletes, which will only help them improve their off-ice training that much more,” said McRae on the addition of Hurston. “We’re excited to add Ryan to the off-ice training staff.”
Success in year one
In its first full year, TPH St. Louis saw tremendous success with its student-athletes.
“We had 37 students in this year, and it’s worked out really well with small groups of on and off-ice training,” said McRae. “The kids have been working hard and having fun with the training, but more importantly, it’s been great to see the kids putting in the same effort in the classroom academically. They finished strong in the first semester with academics, and that’s the most important thing. It’s been awesome to see the students grow and develop as hockey players, students and as people in general.”
It hasn’t been easy for anyone in education to work through a pandemic, but the staff and students in St. Louis have found a way to be successful and to overtake any obstacle thrown their way.
“We’ve taken it day-by-day just like the rest of the world,” said McRae. “We’ve had to go through some challenging times and adversity, but the staff and students have found a way to get the training and schoolwork that the kids need during this difficult time for everyone. We’re looking to keep battling through this to get the kids really what they need, while at the same time being safe and following all the guidelines that we need to.”
As the school has grown with its student-athletes, the goal in St. Louis is to always put the kids first and add the necessary staff members to support them. With the addition of more staff members, the student to staff ratio will continue to be at a level where each and every child at TPH St. Louis receives one-on-one attention to help them reach their goals as an athlete.
Interested in learning more about the TPH Center of Excellence St. Louis? TPH St. Louis will be hosting an on-site open house February 8th. Attendees must register to attend but the open house is FREE. Click here to reserve you seat.
Learn more about the Center of Excellence in St. Louis.
CoE student in Nashville steps up for friend battling cancer
Less than a year in, Phoenix excels in providing opportunities for its student-athletes
The TPH Center of Excellence (CoE) in Phoenix is still very young, but it’s already making a lasting impression on student-athletes, their families and its own staff. The center has brought a balance of academics and athletics with a blended learning experience in the classroom with on and off-ice training, plus a mentorship program to prepare student-athlete for the future.
Education and Athletics During a Pandemic
Even with the pandemic, TPH Phoenix has found commitment from everyone involved to make sure its students are receiving the tools they need to succeed.
“The commitment all the way around from the student-athletes and staff are striving to be their best every day,” said Brett Blatchford, Director of Hockey-Operation. “It’s been nice to see the commitment level that they all have. The kids may not be elite today, but they all have a desire to get there. Our staff wants these kids to succeed. The lengths they’re willing to go to ensure their success, the student-athletes have so many resources available that there’s no way they won’t grow into better hockey players and people.”
While the pandemic has brought with it many challenges to education and athletics, TPH Phoenix has done everything possible to keep its student-athletes safe. The consistency of the educational process has been tremendous accomplishment this year, even with the challenges faced.
“First and foremost, we’ve had a commitment to keeping the kids safe,” said Blatchford. “It’s taken diligence to make sure everyone is following the proper precautions and beyond that keeping them in school and progressing in their development. We feel like we’re fully set up to give our student-athletes a good experience even if they do have to quarantine. The Kinduct mobile app helps with our communication to the student-athletes and keeps them on track. We’re set up to handle a blended learning environment. We easily make a transition if it’s needed. There are also at-home programs the student-athletes can use to stay on task with their training and academics.”
That consistency has been a key factor for Julie Hymovitch, whose son Evan (2007) attends the CoE in Phoenix.
“The experience has been even better than we knew it was going to be, particularly in light of COVID,” said Hymovitch. “What’s really important is that there haven’t been many stops at the CoE, and they’ve been very consistent. That’s been so huge that my kid has been able to be social. Some kids that have not been able to have that social piece in safe learning environment is a big problem. Mental health is really important. I’m hearing from a lot of friends whose kids are stuck at home, and they’re seriously depressed. That’s one of the things that has been huge for us and a big deal that TPH has been able to do this safely during a pandemic.”
Building Leaders On and Off the Ice
The TPH Center of Excellence isn’t only about training and educating student-athletes. It’s about preparing them for their future. Each CoE has success coaches and mentors that provide students much-needed one-on-one attention to help them develop and be ready for their future, even if it’s not in sports.
“TPH is unique in that it gives student-athletes a huge opportunity to succeed at the next level of life, and in their communities, whether they’re athletes or not,” said Brendan Burke, Player Development Coach & Mentor. “They’re going to get more personal attention here than any other school I know of here. We work with them on planning and making a schedule. They build a lot of life skills here that will help them be ready for college and university.”
Student-athletes are surrounded by staff members with experience at various levels of sport. Whether it be major juniors in Canada, juniors in the United States, NCAA Division-I or even professional hockey, TPH Phoenix has mentors and coaches that share their experiences with students.
“It’s a unique staff because no two staff members bring the same experiences,” said Blatchford. “No matter what level a student-athlete here wants to play at, there’s someone here that has something to offer them. They understand what it takes to be a pro and play at different levels of the sport. The fact that they’re able to be surrounded by people that played at the level that they aspire to get to and a group of people who understand what it takes to be successful and are eager to share that knowledge with the student-athletes to give them the best opportunity to succeed.”
For parents, having mentors and leadership training even outweighs so many other aspects of what’s provided at the Center of Excellence. Amy Koch has twin sons, Zachariah and Samson (2009), that attend the CoE in Phoenix. She’s already seeing the positive impact from the mentorship program on her sons.
“The biggest thing that stands out to me is the mentorship program that has created very strong foundations for leadership and team building,” said Koch. “They also understand the importance of skill building as opposed to just a game, and that’s resonated in their performance with their club team, their home and other sports they play as well. The CoE provides our children with the ability to set goals and have the foundation and structure and support to execute them successfully both in hockey, school and life.”
In regards to Evan Hymovitch, the CoE has helped him become a leader in the locker room and at home.
“His coaches picked captains and assistant captains two months into the season,” said Evan’s mom Julie. “Evan was made captain because of how he led in the locker room and how he interacted with his teammates. I think that has a lot to do with what happens in our house as he’s the youngest of five. The CoE is something where he has just wanted to shine. He used to be introverted, and now he’s the first one to ask how he can help. He’ll just jump in and offer help at school and at home. It’s little things that prepare you the future. It’s something that clicks with him at the CoE where he takes that and bring it forward. Everyone has noticed a difference in him. It has given Evan so much more confidence both on and off the ice. It’s made him a better teammate. It has enhanced his academic life. When I look at him as a student compared to last year, I’ve seen big changes.”
Unique Academic Experience
From a balanced learning environment, to being flexible in a pandemic, the way a student-athlete learns at the CoE in Phoenix has been one that parents enjoy. Balancing school and athletics have played a huge role in reducing stress and actually giving students more of their own time to do other things, which includes spending time with family.
“It’s a whole lot less aggravation for me,” said Hymovitch. “I’m not having to do the battle about homework and no tears over a lost weekend. Evan has free time now because of the balance while he’s at school. With his siblings being home right now as a part of virtual college, he gets to spend time with them, too. If he was at regular school, he wouldn’t have this extra time to be with his family. He’s been staying on or ahead of pace because he’s loving school. He actually enjoys it. He geeks out over the way school is set up, and he also gets the extra ice time without it being extremely early in the morning. It also gives extra to do extra workouts and whatever he wants to do. It’s so nice because we’re not all stressed.
Student-athletes are given goals and the expectation is that they will follow through on them. They’re given responsibility and ownership over their day, which parents feel helps them succeed. Those are skills that won’t only help them succeed in secondary school, but in college and beyond.
“I think it’s been amazing to watch the program set really strong goals and understand the follow through and step by step process on how to become a good scholar, friend and athlete,” said Amy Koch. “Those building blocks are important. Sometimes we forget that it takes steps to get there. Especially in academics, it’s giving them ownership, leadership and quality performance that they’re accountable for themselves. It’s an independent type of learning where they have to set those goals and hit them. They’re learning how to break them down and understand that little goals are just as important as the big goals.”
It’s definitely a unique learning environment at the CoE, but it’s one that student-athletes and staff embrace. Many liken it to preparing them for life on a college campus. More independence mixed with heightened responsibility.
Another notable unique experience at the CoE in Phoenix is the ability to bring in special guests on occasion. Special guests can include former or current professional players sharing their life experiences and answering questions from student-athletes. With a staff so well-connected in the hockey world like the one in Phoenix, it’s not a mystery that they’ve been able to bring in some fantastic speakers.
“We’ve been super lucky to have a lot of NHL players come to the Phoenix area and train,” said Burke. “We also have a lot of ex-NHLers that live in the area. We recently had Jake Bean and Matt Dumba to come speak as special guests. There’s a huge hockey community here that we’ve been able to lean on already in our short existence.”
Burke made the connections with Dumba and Bean while all three were playing in the WHL in the mid 2010s. And while those are a couple guests that have stopped by, many more are sure to come.
A Strong Foundation
Less than a year in, TPH Phoenix is making a positive impact on the lives of everyone involved. They’ve built a foundation with their student-athletes with an understand that gains aren’t immediate, but that they take time. Now that they’re establish, the center, its student-athletes and its staff will continue to grow.
“Significant gains take time; it’s not immediate,” said Brett Blatchford. “Once a foundation was established with the student-athletes, it became seamless to go through training on and off the ice. We continue to add layers now and can see the growth. The student-athletes went through on and off-ice testing at the beginning of the year, and they’ll go through it at the end of the year so we can see the growth each one has made.”
It’s an exciting time to be at the Center of Excellence in Phoenix, and space will be available soon for the 2021-22 school year. To learn more about the Center of Excellence, click here.To apply click here.
St. Louis Adds Bopp as Mentor/Coach
(ST. LOUIS, MO – November 19, 2020) – Total Package Hockey (TPH) and St. Louis Director of Hockey and Operations Philip McRae have announced the addition of Stephen Bopp as a Player Development Coach & Mentor. Bopp is currently the head coach of the 2009 Carshield AAA Team, as well as the assistant coach of the St. Louis Rockets Elite U16 AA team.
Bopp grew up playing hockey in St. Louis and has been a member of the Kirkwood Stars, Affton Americans Central States and AAA Blues. Bopp went on to play junior hockey for the St. Louis Bandits of the North American Hockey League for two years and finished his career at Lindenwood University where he was a member of the 2016 National Championship team. While at Lindenwood, Bopp studied Exercise Science with a minor in Nutrition and had the opportunity to intern with the St. Louis Blues Strength and Conditioning Department during their 2015-2016 Western Conference Final run.
“I’m looking forward to joining the TPH family because of the variety of students I get to coach,” said Bopp. “I love the challenge of finding ways to connect with different players to help them grow as people and hockey players. This is a unique opportunity because I’m equally excited to learn from Phil, Bobby, Scott and Bruce. These coaches all have an established background that can help broaden my own perspective in how I coach others.”
Bopp currently owns Bodies By Bopp LLC and works with athletes of all ages to help improve strength, coordination and sport performance. With his past experience, he will be a tremendous asset to student-athletes in St. Louis.
“I believe each person is the sum of their own experiences and you can learn something from everyone you cross paths with,” said Bopp. “I’ve worked with players from 6U all the way to the NHL level, so I’m excited to coach the athlete and not the sport. Each student at TPH has a different goal and driving factor for the game of hockey so it is my job to figure how to get the most out of each individual.”
Learn more about the Center of Excellence.
TK Scholarship Fund Announced
(HUNTSVILLE, ALABAMA – November 14, 2020) – Total Package Hockey (TPH) along with John and Amy Kennedy have announced the TK Scholarship Fund at the TPH Center of Excellence. The TK Scholarship Fund was created to celebrate the life and legacy of MAJ Thomas E. Kennedy, who was killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan on August 8, 2012. Applications will be available soon at TotalPackageHockey.com/TKScholarshipFund.
“The TK Scholarship Fund was put in place to honor the memory and serving legacy of Tommy Kennedy,” said TPH Chief Executive Officer Nathan Bowen. “While serving our country, Tommy lost his life and paid the ultimate price. His brother, John Kennedy, and sister-in-law, Amy Kennedy, brought this opportunity to us just a few months ago after their son Jack had a great experience at our TPH Center of Excellence in Atlanta, Georgia. They asked if they could do more. Once we learned what the TK Scholarship Fund was all about, to see the vision, mission and values align exactly the same as TPH, we knew this was going to be a great opportunity to serve some student-athletes that need a little more help. But more importantly, we knew this pointed to the “TK way” as we preach to our student-athletes on a daily basis what it means to put others first, team first and family first, just like Tommy.”
Major Kennedy was a graduate of the United States Military Academy at West Point and a varsity defensemen on the Black Knight Ice Hockey team. He was a dedicated student-athlete, a cherished leader amongst his fellow soldiers and an outspoken advocate for those who needed a helping hand. MAJ Kennedy’s legacy lives on through the recipients of this scholarship by providing financial assistance to elite student-athletes who demonstrate leadership, dedication to academic success and a desire to train at the highest level in their sport.
“For us to be in a position to extend his legacy to help others receive a great education as well as advance their athletic career is a true honor,” said John Kennedy, Thomas’ brother. “To have TPH also be a part of that, it wraps up full circle. Our brother was a hockey player that went to West Point. He came out an incredible leader a the free world and died fighting for his country. For him to know that he’s helping folks that are a little less financially fortunate, and to let their kid follow their dream, it’s nothing short of spectacular.”
Kennedy was a highly decorated officer, he earned dozens of awards and service medals, including Bronze Star Medal (3), Purple Heart and Bronze Star Posthumous, Meritorious Service Medal (2), Army Commendation Medal (3), Army Achievement Medal (3), Afghanistan Campaign Medal w/Bronze Service Star, Iraq Campaign Medal w/Bronze Service Star (4), Combat Action Badge, Air Assault Badge, Parachutist Badge and Ranger Tab.
“Tommy just really embodied what it meant to be a great student, a great athlete, a great teammate and a great leader,” said Amy Kennedy, sister-in-law of Thomas. “He was always looking out for other people and always standing up for people that didn’t have voices for themselves. That’s why we’re so grateful to be involved with TPH, because the values and pillars of TPH align with who he was as a human.”
The ideal candidate for the TK Scholarship Fund at the TPH Center of Excellence is a student-athlete that is dedicated to their academic studies, exudes a tremendous amount of leadership both in their sport and in their community and stands up for what is right. Learn more at TotalPackageHockey.com/TKScholarshipFund.