The world Hockey Summit brought 300 hockey leaders from around the globe together for four days of discussion on topics as wide ranging as Olympics, the growth of our sport and player development. The purpose of this event was to share ideas and best practices so that our global community can continue to improve hockey at every level.
The second day began with a focus on youth player development, and in a very gratifying way our American Development Model took center stage. When issues were brought forth to the delegation, and solutions suggested, USA Hockey was able to say, “Yes, we are already moving in that direction by implementing cross-ice hockey as the standard for all 8 & Under players.” “Yes, we are re-focusing on age appropriate training and competition.” And “Yes, we have a long-term vision for hockey in our country.”
Then, during a break in the event, I tried to catch up on a few e-mails sent by our membership. With words of some of the top professionals in our sport acknowledging and endorsing our efforts still ringing in my ears, I received a particular e-mail that brought me a dose of the reality and challenges we face.
“…I am writing to express my concern for cross-ice hockey. I think it would be a BIG step backwards ... Hockey is all about skating skills, and cross-ice hockey is too confining … We also cannot teach offsides and positioning like we feel should be taught at the Mite level … Please reconsider promoting this type of hockey and do what is best for the kids.”
I am amazed that people somehow believe USA Hockey wants to hold their children back. People need to understand that we take player development extremely seriously. USA Hockey wants more elite level players than ever before, and by elite we mean truly world-class players, not just those that add another A to their jacket by writing a bigger check and calling themselves elite.
Just take our cross-ice hockey example. If this was not such a vastly superior environment for our kids at the Mite level to play, why would USA Hockey push so hard for this change? Why would the all the global hockey experts at the World Hockey Summit be saying the same thing?
This particular parent is obviously passionate and certainly wants what is best for his or her child, but this e-mail exemplifies the challenges we face as an organization in implementing the American Development Model.
As we enter our second full season, we will continue to emphasize cross-ice hockey, small area games and everything else that goes with creating the best system for our 8 & Under players.
But if we are going to take credit for what we’ve accomplished to date, we also need to take the blame. We need to continually educate our parents and coaches as to why we are doing what we do, and judging from some of the comments we receive it’s obvious that we need to double our efforts to explain the benefits of long-term athlete development.
To that end, every registered 8 & Under player as of Sept. 10 received an e-mail from USA Hockey trying to help explain our Red White and Blue initiative on cross-ice hockey.
The e-mail re-directs you to ADMkids.com where we have a downloadable file that gives much more clarity to the why. I would encourage everyone who is curious to have a look.
Will these e-mails put an end to the misguided comments we receive from parents and coaches? Obviously not. But if we can convince one skeptical parent or one coach who is stuck in his ways then it will be worth it.