If there’s one thing families in the State of Hockey can count on, it’s that leaders in the sport will constantly look for new ways to grow the game and increase opportunities for young skaters to enhance their development and have more fun on the ice.
It’s in that spirit that Minnesota Hockey announces the launch of its latest program – the 13U Futures Development Program – specifically designed for boys and girls born in 2010 and 2011 who are looking for an option in the spring to lace up their skates.
Beginning the week following the Minnesota Hockey State Tournaments (held March 17-19, 2023) and running through mid-May, the 13U Futures Development Program is intended to serve 2010 and 2011 birth years across the state. Each District, with their Hockey Director Coordinators leading the way, will host both a boys’ and girls’ program, including 13 hours of coach-led development sessions as well as 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 events.
“This is a chance for players to develop under a designed curriculum at a reasonable cost and in a low-pressure environment with coaches that are trained by Minnesota Hockey and USA Hockey,” said Jacob Mars, Hockey Director Coordinator for Minnesota Hockey and director of the 13U Futures Development Program. “Most importantly, it will be fun. And it still allows them to play other sports if that’s what they want to do. It really gives kids the chance to be kids and develop how they should. It’ll be a good time.”
Mars provided some additional insight on the new initiative.
Minnesota Hockey: What is the program all about?
Jacob Mars: It’s open to all players with 2010 and 2011 birth years. So, it doesn’t matter if you’re an AA or a C-level player, as long as you’re age-eligible, you’re eligible to register. And it will be localized within your district. Each of our districts will have a program – one for the boys and one for the girls. Players receive 13 hours of skill development through a curriculum created by USA Hockey’s player development team, and there will be a 3-on-3 showcase and a 5-on-5 festival.
Minnesota Hockey: What was the impetus behind the program? Why now?
Jacob Mars: In our fall programming, we have programs for two birth years and our High Performance. So, for example, this fall it was the 2008 and 2009 years. We wanted to provide a development option for our 2010 and 2011 birth years under the Minnesota Hockey umbrella that also still allows them to play their other sports. We want them playing their other sports! This provides an affordable option for them to still develop their hockey skills in the spring. We already have a High Performance program that starts this spring for the 2009s, so we wanted something for this age group.
Minnesota Hockey: How is this program different from the High Performance Program?
Jacob Mars: High Performance is an evaluation and development tool for the top athletes in our state. This program is strictly a development program for any age-eligible player, regardless of what winter team they were on.
Minnesota Hockey: What are the main benefits or opportunities for players who participate?
Jacob Mars: You’re going to get a lot of ice touches and properly-run skill development sessions where you’re going to learn a lot. The second piece is that you’re going to develop with other players that you may not know and you may not have played with before, along with a different coaching staff. The third thing, and maybe the most important thing, is that it will be extremely fun. This is going to be a fun program for the players. If you’re playing another sport, go play your other sport. We strongly encourage that. If you don’t have that other sport (or even if you do), this is a great opportunity for you.
Minnesota Hockey: What will the season look like?
Jacob Mars: It’s not a typical ‘league.’ They’ll do the 13 skill hours that will start at the end of March and go through the middle of May. Typically, they’ll have 2 to 3 skill development sessions a week. And then there are the 3-on-3 and 5-on-5 events. Specific days and times will depend on the local districts, which will set their own schedules.
Minnesota Hockey: What are the long-term goals of the program?
Jacob Mars: We’d love for the districts to have between 40-80 players, in each gender. That may not happen with all of the districts, but that would be ideal. One thing I have learned about these kinds of programs is to take it year by year. See how the first year goes, and then go from there.
Minnesota Hockey: Is one of the goals to prepare players for future teams, like high school down the road?
Jacob Mars: Not so much at this age, because most of these kids will be 12 to 13. It’s really just providing another local option for development at a reasonable cost while still giving them the opportunity to do the other things that they have going on in their lives. The coaching leaders in the districts are doing a nice job of putting this together, and the USA Hockey curriculum is huge because they are designing this specifically for us, for Minnesota.
Minnesota Hockey: Why 13U? Is it a hockey development ‘sweet spot?’
Jacob Mars: It really is, as these kids are starting to go through physical changes and figuring out the type of player they’re going to be. I think this age group is very impressionable, and this can help them learn now how to train, how to take care of themselves, and the proper steps that they need to take to get where they want to be, and that may be different for every player. For some, it may be playing at the college level, and for others, it may be being a really good high school player and then becoming a doctor. Giving them the tools and opportunities to learn are really important at this age.
Minnesota Hockey: What has been the response from the districts to date?
Jacob Mars: So far, the response from the districts has been strong. They’re excited. Another thing that’s nice for us is being able to have young coaches under the Minnesota Hockey umbrella and train them and develop them as leaders. This program is a great way to do that because, if you’re a larger district, you’re going to need a lot of coaches. We can train those Peewee or Bantam coaches who are into coaching, and they’re going to learn how to coach using the USA Hockey method and ADM tools.
There will also be opportunities for the districts to share lessons learned along the way, with a lot of meetings and collaborations, from coaches working with our development peers at USA Hockey to our administrators working on what needs to be done at their level. So we’re constantly talking to each other.
Minnesota Hockey: How can people get involved?
Jacob Mars: People will be able to register on the Minnesota Hockey website. They can also reach out to their District Hockey Director Coordinator (all of their contact information will be on that website). The cost is $375 per player, which includes ice time, a jersey, socks, coaches, etc.
More information will be available as registration opens up in the near future.