top of page

U16 Team South Dakota secures National Hockey Championship Title: Tea’s Jack Campbell helps lead team to victory with stepdad as coach

U16 Team South Dakota (SD) claimed the 2024 Chipotle-USA Hockey Youth Tier II 16U 2A National Championship title, held in Dallas, TX. 

The team, comprising 20 talented boys from various corners of South Dakota, clinched the title after a thrilling victory over the Alabama Thunder, sealing a remarkable 7-2 win on April 4. 

Among the athletes contributing to this historic win was Tea Area High School sophomore, Jack Campbell. This was not the first big win on the ice for Campbell who also won the 14U National Championship two years ago in Kalamazoo, MI. But making this victory even more special was the fact that Campbell’s stepdad, Aaron DeBates, was the head coach, earning his first ever National title. 

Campbell, son of Leslie DeBates, shared his excitement about the team’s big win, expressing gratitude for his teammates’ support. 

“It is still sinking in, but it is a great feeling, especially with really great teammates who are there for you on and off the ice,” Campbell said. 

Reflecting on the championship game, Campbell highlighted the excitement and camaraderie among the players as they celebrated their victory at the final buzzer. 

“The excitement from each of us as we kept scoring and building that momentum is hard to describe and then when the buzzer went off at the end of third period and we all hopped the boards to congratulate our goalie and each other was probably the best,” said Campbell. “But the biggest memories from the season are of all of us hanging out on and off the ice. We are all really good friends even with the distance between us. Earning this national title with my stepdad on the bench made it even more special.”

The belief the coaches had in the athletes on the team played a big role, Campbell believes, in the team’s success on the ice. 

“Some hockey teams we play against only play a few key players. We are lucky enough to have coaches who believe in all 20 of us and have always stressed that we each bring something to the team and to each game and they play all 20 of us,” said Campbell. “Going out and playing my hardest and playing smart and not getting penalties, setting up my teammates for a play or a goal and putting a few pucks in the net helped contribute to our success.”

Campbell also reflected on the valuable lessons learned from the championship experience.

“It is not lost on me what a great accomplishment this was to achieve not once, but twice. Hockey has taught me discipline, hard work, overcoming adversity, communication, trust and teamwork. It also helps when you have coaches that really believe in you and push you to be your best — what you can accomplish,” said Campbell. 

Campbell’s love of the sport began at a young age, seeing others in the family enjoy the sport. 

“My older stepbrother Zak played hockey and so I wanted to try it to be like him. He took me out on the ice when I was four and I immediately fell in love with the sport. I even had to have the same number as him for a long time,” said Campbell. “I love the connections I have with my teammates the most. In South Dakota we all have our own organizations we play for during the winter months and play for Team SD in the fall and spring. We can be really competitive when we play against each other but after each game - no matter who won or lost, we come to center ice and joke and talk to each other before we part ways. They are like a chosen family.”

Team SD has a few practices throughout the year and play 20 qualifying games from August 1 to October 31st and then each player is released to their ‘home’ association where they play for their regular season. They meet back up mid March after the Varsity state hockey tournament and have a few more practices before they head off to Nationals. The boys take a bus to Nationals which is a major bonding moment for them — they play card games, NHL Xbox tournaments and other random games to keep busy.

The bond these players have make them winning the Championship title together that much sweeter. 

“What sets this team apart from other teams was they believed in themselves and held each accountable to execute the team plan throughout the tournament,” said Coach DeBates. “Adversity is a word commonly used in the game of hockey and when this team was faced with that all 20 players and coaches came together to overcome these situations all while staying committed to the team game plan.”

Coach DeBates has been coaching 12+ years and has been the coach of U16 Team SD for the past three years, winning the title this year was an amazing feeling for him.

“It is a great feeling winning a National Championship and watching the players on this team exceed all expectations and represent the State of South Dakota in a positive and successful way,” said Coach Debates. 

Reflecting on standout moments from the championship journey, Coach DeBates pointed to the team’s impressive performance in the pool play games, where they set the tone for success by securing three consecutive wins and outscoring their opponents decisively.

“As we reflect on the Championship journey the three pool play games to start the tournament was pivotal to the team success.  By setting the tone and going 3-0 while outscoring our opponents 19-3 and outshooting them 156-55 was the start the team needed based on the previous seasons,” he shared. 

 Throughout the run towards the National Title, the coaching staff emphasized specific words to bolster the team’s morale and strategy. This approach proved successful upon clinching the championship. 

“Each game the coaching staff delivered a word that we built on for the team that we used to help them prepare for their next challenge. ,” explained Coach DeBates. “Trust, Teamwork, Focus, Ready, and for the championship game was Finish and this team executed each of these words.”

Finish they did!


bottom of page