Zach Lammers '22 has started a training program for young people with special needs who love ice hockey. Lammers runs the program for the Calhoun Coyotes, an off-ice offshoot of the Montgomery County Cheetahs, every weekend with the help of students from Landon and other area schools. In this Q&A, Zach explains how the program got off the ground.
Did the Coyotes start through your love of hockey and your interest in sharing it with others?
Yes, I’ve been playing ice hockey since I was around seven years old. When I was in middle school, I started volunteering on Saturday mornings with the Montgomery Cheetahs. They teach and mentor special needs kids in ice hockey. Each week, I was paired up on the ice with one kid, and my assignment was to be a friend for him and help him through the drills, and make sure he was having fun, being safe, and understood what to do.
What led to the creation of the Coyotes?
When COVID-19 hit, the Cheetahs had to shut down completely, but I was able to at least keep practicing on the ice through Landon. I felt pretty lucky. So I reached out to one of the organizers of the Cheetahs, saying that I’d love to put together a program along with some of my hockey friends to coach the Cheetah kids in some way. Ice time was too expensive to rent [the Cheetah families pay nothing to participate], and during COVID, the parents were happier to have all activity outside.
So we focused on street hockey, and got together a bunch of equipment: street hockey sticks, balls, cones, nets, etc. I recruited some of my friends—from Landon ice hockey plus other guys I played with outside of Landon—and we met in the parking lot at the Cabin John ice rink and had our first session with about five kids in January. We ran a clinic for them, and we haven’t stopped since. We’ve moved to a parking lot near the Rockville Ice Arena, but we’re still meeting each week and have doubled our attendance.
What’s a typical Coyotes session?
We’ve figured out a general structure of what works best: 20 minutes of stretching and general fitness, 20 minutes of skills work, and 20 minutes of a scrimmage or some other game. Every Friday night, I put together a specific practice plan within that structure.
How many coaches work with you for the Coyotes?
We have about 10 coaches who take turns volunteering with the Coyotes, and I’m there every week as head coach. A lot of the other coaches are current students or alumni from Landon: Braxton Bjornson, Quinn Farland, Ethan Goldman, Michael Hardie, Cormic McNamara, Nico Mordkin, Leo Quattrone, Ishan Sethi, Bryce Sidhu, and Jacob Hookman-Vassa.
How did you come up with the name—the Calhoun Coyotes?
We wanted to have something like the Cheetahs, but did not want to take away from them and their own fundraising efforts. So we started with the street where we meet each week—Calhoun Drive. And then we picked Coyotes, like the Arizona NHL team.
What has coaching taught you?
I never before understood or appreciated how stressful it is to run a practice. I have new appreciation for my own coaches! It’s a vulnerable position to be in. Everyone is paying attention to what you’re doing. It’s a lot of pressure and responsibility to keep the practice flowing, the energy up, make sure everyone’s having fun and being safe, and that the whole thing is beneficial and not a waste of time for anyone.
What are your plans for the coming year with the club?
The parents would like to see us get on the ice with their kids now, and to provide extra hockey sessions when the Cheetahs are back. But doing that requires ice time, which is costly. So we’ve put together a fundraising campaign asking for support from local businesses. It’s going pretty well so far, because so many people are happy to support, but it’s challenging since we’re not a registered non-profit.
I also want to see the club continue after I graduate, so I’ll be working with guys at Landon in the grades below me to hopefully pass it on to one of them.
What have you learned from this experience?
I want to study business in college, and this experience has given me great hands-on experience in management, finance, fundraising, marketing, and so much more.
Plus, working with the kids and seeing their energy is amazing. You have to figure out how to get younger kids excited. It was trial and error in the beginning. We tried prizes, games, and other things. But it came down to just our energy, more than anything else. It’s so much fun when you figure that out and get them excited and see how happy they are. They make it more fun and so rewarding because they’re excited to be there, and that makes us excited to be there with them.
What other hobbies or interests do you have?
I’m still playing a lot of hockey, and I’m interested in environmental science. This past summer, I volunteered with an organization called Shore Rivers, doing water quality testing and monitoring of different sea grasses.