When it comes to building a strong team and encouraging players to make the most of their time in Allen, Allen Americans Head Coach Steve Martinson places a large emphasis on planning for the future. Back in 2014, many of his players expressed interest in becoming firemen after their hockey careers came to an end, so Martinson took action to facilitate their aspirations.
After meeting with the Allen Fire Department and Battalion Chief Rex Womack, an internship program was developed to transition interested hockey players into trained firefighters who could remain in the community, serving the fans who have backed them for years.
The firefighter internship program took a break for a few years, but now, 11 current Allen Americans players are involved. The men receive first-hand training, go on ride alongs and truly experience what it’s like to live as a firefighter. Some of the players even assist with extinguishing live fires.
“When players sign up to participate in the internship program and learn to be a firefighter, they know they’re committing to a long, hard process,” said Assistant Coach and McKinney firefighter Jason Deitsch. “They’re dedicating their free time during the season to learning what it’s like to try this career, and whether or not they end up becoming full-time firefighters, they learn valuable skills and explore a possible career path.”
Although one might not immediately draw a line between playing hockey and fighting fires, the players see a direct connection between the two experiences.
“Firefighting is a similar atmosphere to the hockey dressing room with the camaraderie,” said Kevin Young, who previously participated in the program when he was playing for the Allen Americans. “It's hard to plan for when you won't be playing anymore, but it's something we all need to do. This program gives you a great look at what it takes to be a firefighter and also gives you some great hands-on education.”
Similarly, Deitsch remarked on how smooth the transition from the locker room to the fire station can seem to players. “Playing hockey is all about learning to work as a team, and as a firefighter, relying on your team is key,” he said. “Players want a career that uses some of the skills they’ve worked so hard to form while playing hockey, and firefighting provides them with the opportunity to do that.”
There are two parts to the internship program. The first is a structured period in which the players learn about basic EMT skills, like starting IVs, checking blood pressure, and clearing airways. Each intern goes through six or seven in-depth training sessions, then moves on to partner with one of the five fire stations in Allen.
While working with firefighters, the players build their own schedules and dedicate much of their free time to the experience. Each individually spends 24 to 30 hours participating in ride alongs, as well as attending classroom and hands-on training.
“I really wanted that firsthand experience, to peek behind the curtain,” said Young. “I went into the program with hopes of finding out if firefighting could be my next career choice. [The firefighters] trained us well and welcomed us into the station like we were a part of the team.”
To learn more about how the Allen Americans are involved in the community around us, visit allenamericans.com. There you can read about everything from Biscuit’s Bully Busters Program to special games and events. For tickets to upcoming home games with awesome themes like Ladies Night Hockey in Heels (November 2) or Marvel’s Superhero Night (November 3), click here.