Most high school sports feature a trickle-up effect, in that athletes begin playing their sport before reaching freshman year, and have gained the skills needed to succeed at the higher level of play. Youth leagues from lacrosse to soccer to football abound on the Island.

Some sports, like hockey, require a bit more specialization, making the trickle-up even more important. And this year, participation gaps at the youth hockey levels have led to disparities on the high school teams.

For the second year in a row, the girls’ junior varsity hockey program is seeing record numbers with 32 players in the program. Most are new to the sport, however, and did not play youth hockey before.

“Last year was the big blowup — last year’s freshman class, for whatever reason, they’re all athletes,” JV coach Andrew Keenan said on Tuesday. “That was where the numbers suddenly got skewed.”

“When I first started, we only had 11 or 12 girls on the JV, and we would have to steal from third and fourth lines from varsity just to give players experience,” Mr. Keenan said. He has been involved with the program for five years; both of his daughters are hockey players.

“We actually had a lot of numbers before,” girls’ varsity head coach John Fiorito said Monday. Mr. Fiorito coached JV when the girls’ program first began in the late 1990s. “I have some pictures from back in the day when we had 20-25 kids . . . it’s come full circle, and then all of a sudden it’s just steadily grown.”

But while the girls’ junior varsity program is now thriving, the boys’ JV program was suspended for this year because there weren’t enough players to field a full team. A 15-game schedule had been set for junior varsity and a coach hired, but during tryouts there was not enough turnout.

“It’s just terrible to say, but there wasn’t anything left,” varsity coach Matt Mincone said on Tuesday. Mr. Mincone said that while this was the first year in his tenure as head coach that there was no JV team, the boys’ program had been “on the verge for a couple of years.”

For the past two seasons, there have been between nine and 10 JV players. Mr. Mincone said he was not comfortable fielding a hockey roster at any level that was less than 13 players, and in the past, the fourth-line varsity players also skated during JV games to fill out the thin roster. But this year, because of injuries and program attrition — some older players decided not to skate this season — there were only four potential JV players once the varsity roster was maxed out at 20.

All three hockey coaches said that one of the reasons for the difference in the girls’ and boys’ JV programs was because girls often start playing hockey in high school. There are 14 players on the girls’ junior varsity team who have never played before, and Mr. Keenan’s practices often revolve around learning the sport itself, with a mix of learn-to-skate.

“Some people can skate, and then they get on the ice with all the equipment and the puck — even the figure skating girls who were fine before, you put hockey skates and hockey equipment on them and they look like they’ve never skated,” Mr. Keenan said.

By contrast, Mr. Mincone said that he could only remember two boys in his time coaching who started playing hockey as freshmen. On the boys’ side, the JV program is a feeder for the varsity program; this year, six players who played JV last year moved up.

“We’re playing in division two right now, but realistically we’re in division three,” Mr. Mincone said. “It’s the amount of kids in the school that makes a big difference . . . division three coaches would say the same thing.”

Because all of the hockey programs are so closely linked, the youth hockey programs have recently launched a greater effort to attract more players to the sport at a younger age. Youth hockey program coordinator Geoghan Coogan said that it will likely be a few more years before the effects are seen at the high school. Right now, there are 120 kids in the 11-and-under program, but only 40 in the older age brackets.

“As with any youth sport, there’s usually a lot of passion and energy when they’re little, and then they get older and have other interests,” Mr. Coogan said. “We’re trying to bridge those gaps and have travel teams, and make them more inviting, so hopefully now when kids reach [junior high], those kids stay in the program.”

“It’s such an expensive, time-commitment-heavy sport,” Mr. Fiorito said. “The board has recognized the issues. They made learn-to-skate free a couple years ago and it was the best thing they ever did. It pulled in a lot of kids.”

“There’s a huge effort to make sure we don’t lose them, to make it affordable and make it fun,” Mr. Coogan said.

Last year, a girls’ youth program called the Ospreys was started in an effort to get more players interested and committed. Girls’ hockey booster club president Jeanne Ogden wrote and received a grant for the program, making equipment and skating lessons free for all who are interested. The program is for girls ages nine to 14. The next Ospreys session begins Jan. 7.

“I think we’ve filled a niche in the winter,” Mr. Fiorito said.

“Youth hockey has done everything they can to make it affordable to everyone,” Mr. Mincone said. “I think all that has made it a little bit more achievable, and the interest level has risen.”

Still, it will take some time before the youth hockey numbers translate into numbers at the high school level.

Mr. Mincone said he was hopeful about the boys’ JV program next year, although he acknowledged that the numbers would likely be “right on the line again.”

“Hopefully, it’s back next year,” he said.