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Developing My Hockey Player

By Minnesota Hockey, 11/22/12, 9:30AM CST


USA Hockey’s new philosophy improves the development of all youth hockey players

What is the American Development Model (ADM)? Ask that question to a youth coach in your local hockey association and you could get a variety of different answers. Some may say it is about using cross-ice games or small area drills. Others state the focus is on having fun and developing all kids. Another might claim the goal is providing age-specific training guidelines. Each of those statements is correct.

The primary purpose of ADM is establishing a nationwide philosophy that will increase the number of kids playing hockey as well as the number of elite players. It is a model that enables youth programs to help players reach their full potential whether that is a recreational player, or a future NHL star.

“We want to get our coaches to provide age appropriate programming from mites all the way to college and beyond,” said Ken Martel, Director of ADM for USA Hockey. “We used to treat our eight year olds like high school players which isn’t good for development or keeping them in the game”

Guidelines, Not Rules
USA Hockey states, “The ADM is a nationwide model for successfully developing American hockey players…. The ADM is a set of guidelines designed specifically to help kids reach their full potential.”

Two key words are “model” and “guidelines”. ADM isn’t designed to be the perfect, top to bottom solution for every single hockey program in the country. Local hockey associations are in the best position to adopt the model in a manner that fits their program and the development needs of their players.

“We’re not telling anyone how to play or coach,” emphasized Martel. “ADM is really about principles and how you apply them to what you do.”

Every coach, team and association can benefit from using ADM’s core principles and applying them. It is up to you to take these tools and use them to make your program better.

Fueled by Research
ADM is the result of collaboration between USA Hockey and the NHL. The entire program is funded by the NHL. Both organizations made a commitment to improving youth hockey in the United States.

“This whole thing started from us being critical of ourselves and our organization,” stated Martel. “We wanted to provide world class programming.”

The developers of ADM searched the globe with the goal of discovering the best ways to develop youth hockey players. All of the ADM recommendations are based on research studies and interactions with experts in the fields of youth sports, sport psychology, sport science, sport medicine and elite hockey player development.

One of their main findings was the principles of long term athlete development (LTAD). LTAD was developed by Istvan Balyi, a sport scientist whose research has been published in four different countries. The principles were adapted to ice hockey by USA Hockey and now serve as the basis for the training guidelines in ADM.

Focused on Development
Is it possible for ADM to be effective in both growing the game as well as increasing the number of elite hockey players from Minnesota and the United States? Yes!

The key to doing this is changing our approach to player development. In the past, our programs have prioritized games over practices. When USA Hockey evaluated that relationship, it became obvious we needed to establish a larger focus on skill development. The more opportunities players have to work on skills like balance, skating and puck handling, the faster they will develop and more fun they will have. That is why ADM places a premium on maximizing players’ repetitions, effort and personal involvement.

This isn’t to say that the ADM is about taking the fun out of hockey, quite the contrary. Practices can and should be fun, especially if the kids are all playing together and having a blast with a game that they love.

“How do we provide kids more repetitions in practice?” Martel stressed is a question all coaches should ask themselves. “After all, the fun part of practice is doing the drill, not standing in line.”

The more they play it, the better chance that they’ll love it. And when you combine a passion for the game with increased puck time, kids will start to excel at it. Play, love, excel. That’s the ADM.

This is the first in a series to provide coaches, administrators, parents, and players a better understanding of the principles of ADM. Stay tuned as we go inside the main training guidelines of LTAD .