KALAMAZOO, MI - The Kalamazoo Optimist Hockey Association (KOHA) has been busy this offseason, and newly named Interim Hockey Director, Matt Kakabeeke, has wasted no time in working on ways to improve the association for the 2017/18 season.
"I grew up playing in KOHA, and coached my first KOHA team twenty-five years ago. I am passionate about moving this program forward on and off the ice, and am committed to providing the best landscape for player development in our region," said Kakabeeke.
Since becoming a USA Hockey Model Association (2013/14 season), KOHA has committed to putting a talented Skills Team on the ice with its players. KOHA is excited to announce its first addition to the 17/18 Skills staff - former Bronco Hockey player, Ben Miller ('13).
Miller has been on the ice helping with travel tryouts this spring and is impressed with what he is seeing. "Being able to see the different age groups, and the progression of improvement through the birth years is proof that this model works. We did not have a model like the ADM; we had dads who sometimes didn't know much about hockey development. I like that coaches are trained in a different way now, and I think the players benefit greatly down the road," said Miller.
"Ben brings hockey knowledge and youthful energy to the ice that will benefit our players and coaches. He knows what it takes to play at a high level, and appreciates the changing landscape in player development. We are excited to have him joining us this season," said Kakabeeke.
The Rochester Hills, MI native who grew up playing baseball and lacrosse too, loves that KOHA emphasizes the importance of kids playing multiple sports and getting away from the rink during the offseason. "Whether I was playing baseball, lacrosse or golf, getting away from the rink was important. It got me excited for the next season. I still worked on skills - like shooting and stick handling in my driveway - but in an unstructured environment," he said.
Miller and his wife, Brittney (WMU Women's Soccer), decided to stay in Kalamazoo after graduation "because of the great people and the way of life" on this side of the state; also, said Miller, "less traffic!"

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