After a long hockey season, the summer months provide the perfect opportunity to recharge our batteries while reliving the moments that make our sport so special for everyone involved.
Now that we have wrapped up the first season of education and implementation of the American Development Model, I realize how fortunate I am to have been a part of numerous on-ice demonstrations involving so many dedicated coaches and players around the country.
Most of these ADM practices involved players and coaches at the Mite level and consisted of several skill stations and cross-ice games. Throughout the practices, I witnessed a number of repetitive themes that make our sport so rewarding for our young players. Looking back, it is very easy to identify many key components regarding the value of the ADM.
It is evident that positive, enthusiastic coaches provide a great example for our young players. By consistently filling their players’ ears with positive comments and helpful suggestions, these coaches inspire their players to work a little harder.
As parents and coaches, we always want our children to succeed. Success on the ice leads to happier, harder working hockey players. It is crucial for coaches to create ways for all players to find success in practices and games.
If a player is struggling with a particular drill during practice, a coach must find a way to manipulate the drill that will allow the player to be as successful as possible, without changing the intended function of the drill. Given this attention, these players will be more engaged than the players that can’t finish or execute a drill. These skills can then be used in a game situation.
The ADM places a heavy emphasis on small area games. These games have a hidden value that oftentimes goes unnoticed to parents and players. Players are having a great time while working on four major physical skills: skating, stick handling, passing and shooting. Young hockey players love the competition of a game and while doing so, are getting the opportunity to work on many vital hockey skills.
Players typically are more productive when they are enjoying what they are doing on the ice. Coaches that create a fun environment in a practice or game generally were rewarded with a motivated hockey player.
It is gratifying to see so many volunteer coaches adapting the principles of the ADM to their practices by getting more players involved on the ice and placing a heavy emphasis on skills and small games. These advantages and the rewards for the young players cannot be overstated.
But now is an important time of the year to understand another important piece to the ADM: encouraging our young players to play multiple sports at these young ages. The ADM stresses the importance of developing athleticism by allowing players time away from hockey to enjoy other sports.
We are constantly being warned of the danger in “specializing” in one sport at young ages. As the ADM information states, “An early focus on just one or two sports often leads to injuries, burnout and capping athletic potential.”
We all want the best for our children. We are always being drawn to the belief that more is always better. In fact, when it comes to creating better athletes, more sport options are a better way to go.
We are fortunate to live in a country that offers so many athletic options for our children. Our young hockey players can benefit greatly from staying active and acquiring a diverse range of athletic skills that come with playing different sports. The more athletic our players become at a young age, the greater the benefit to our sport as they grow older.
Hockey is a sport that requires players to be quick, agile, coordinated and well conditioned. By allowing players to be involved in activities other than hockey, our children can acquire vital and necessary physical skills, while reducing the risk of becoming ‘tired or bored’ with the sport we are trying to improve.
Scott Paluch is an ADM regional manager for the Mid-Am and parts of the Southeast District. Prior to joining USA Hockey, Paluch spent seven years as the head coach of his alma mater, Bowling Green State University. Paluch has also served as an assistant coach with Boston College. He has coached several USA Hockey Select teams and was a member of the U.S. National Junior Team that won the bronze medal at the 1986 IIHF World Junior Championship.