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Richfield Athletic Director Explains Shelving of Girls Hockey Program

Mixed reaction from parents, community follows the decision.

Public support and criticism have followed ’s decision to shelve its girls hockey program team this winter. Waning participation over the last decade and the school’s inability to strike co-op teams with other schools led to the decision.

“We saw that there would come a time when [our hockey program] wouldn't be sustainable," Richfield High School Athletic Director Todd Olson told Richfield Patch Wednesday. "For the girls, that time came this year, which was one year earlier than anticipated."

Along with the decision, Richfield worked with the Richfield Youth Hockey Association for all but one of its players to have the option of joining the U14, U16 or U19 teams. .

How the Decision Was Made

Alarmed by declining interest, Olson said he and the Richfield Youth Hockey Association increased their recruiting efforts. At the same time, they approached other area schools—Holy Angels, Bloomington’s Kennedy High School and others—about forming a co-op, but none agreed to combine teams.

Fewer than 10 Richfield girls had committed to playing this season—at least five short of a full team. Olson said parents, players and coaches agreed to disband the team for the season.

"The Richfield Youth Hockey Association was waiting for the call from the high school [saying] that kids would be coming back," Olson said.

Readers, Parents Weigh In

Reaction from parents and community members appears mixed.

"From my perspective, forming the cooperative is a great benefit to the players, the schools and the community at large," wrote in a comment to Richfield Patch.

On the other side, an anonymous parent—self-identified only as ""—.

"It is unfortunate that this situation took place,” he wrote. “It is very sad that more wasn’t done proactively in the previous 3 years leading to this, rather than reactively now.”

In a personal e-mail to Richfield Patch, Spartan Fan—who wished to remain anonymous to spare children from any backlash—also suggested that Olson had "created an environment" within the school and community that deterred parents from voicing concerns, out of fear of a fallout for their children.

Olson said he understood parents' frustrations and respected their concerns, though he added that none of these were brought up during the group discussion with parents and players, nor were they brought back to him after he and coaches left the room so parents and players could discuss the issue in private. In the end, Olson said, someone had to be the bad guy.

"I ultimately have to make the decision,” Olson said. "But there was lack of participation, lack of interest and lack of sustainability."

The Future of Richfield High School Hockey

Richfield isn’t the only city struggling to sustain sports programs, according to Olson. He mentioned other cities—such as Columbia Heights, New Hope and St. Paul—that have already or will be forced to either form co-ops or eliminate programs. Issues such as the aging population of a city, economic conditions and cultural changes can also be attributed to the declining interest in hockey.

Olson also reported that Richfield’s boys program is also at risk, estimating another two or three years before he, parents and players face a similar decision. Officials are already pursuing co-op options.

If anything, Olson added, disbanding the girls team has gained the school some visibility in the “co-op marketplace.”

“[It] showed other schools just how serious we were about finding a solution,” he said.

Editor's Note: Richfield Patch invites more parents, players, community members and coaches to comment on the situation in the comments section below. We are currently working on another story from the perspective of a player.

So Long!! December 09, 2011 at 03:05 PM
People have been saying to co-op for years.........and as usual they are talked to like they had no idea what they are talking about.........these decision makers are like a little club, they all scratch each others backs......the paid coaches need that second paycheck so of course they say it will work.......and the losses just roll on!!
Richfield Resident December 22, 2011 at 01:05 AM
Has anyone ever noticed that Todd OIson always claims that he hasn't heard of parents complaining? Richfield parents need to make some serious complaints about this man. Perhaps they should run Todd Olson out of Richfield like Edina did before he came to Richfield. The athletic program all around has gone to crap since Todd Olson has been in charge, Look at the football prgram - it is utterly pathetic! There are middle school football players that do not plan on attending RHS because of the football program. Todd is not the "bad guy" or the victim here, he is the problem. I feel sorry for the girls hockey players and all other student athletes at RHS. HOW MANY MORE STUDENT ATHLETES WILL LEAVE RHS BEFORE CHANGES ARE MADE?
Caitlin Burgess December 22, 2011 at 03:21 AM
I'm sure there are changes that can be made, but since this story has broke no one has really gone on the record to say how it should be changed. And, as you will see from the article, one parent wouldn't his or her name, and so far in this section of the page, no one else has either. I don't necessarily begrudge anyone for wanting to be private or make an attempt to protect their child, but I would venture to say that if someone came forward, more would follow and change could be made. And as a former Richfield student, while I will be a Spartans fan until the end, our programs have been struggling on and off for a number of years. I have an interview with Alyson Niesen - the one girl who went to Holy Angels' team - coming up this week. She talks about a few different issues surrounding this. Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment.

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