News | October 30, 2019By Lauren Glendenning
Youth sports often focus on the skills and training required to develop successful athletes, but what about age-appropriate skills and training that aim to develop great human beings?
That’s the focus of Aspen Junior Hockey, which coaches its youth and young adult players using the USA Hockey’s American Development Model — a model that has produced successful results, both on and off the ice, since its inception 10 years ago“We have development plans that essentially define each of the skills that should be mastered at each age, and then build from there,” said Shaun Hathaway, Aspen Junior Hockey executive director. “We’re not just playing hockey, we’re building adults; we’re building great citizens.”
The American Development Model was partly influenced by studying how Swedish and Finnish youth hockey programs became such powerhouses with considerably less participants than other countries.
“They put training ahead of competition,” said Joe Bonnett, the American Development Model regional manager for the Rocky Mountain district. “In the U.S., we were concerned about wins and losses.”
After talking to sports science leaders from around the world, the ADM was developed to complement both biological and psychosocial growth and development.
Bonnett said the ADM’s goal is to develop more world-class athletes and more kids playing hockey for longer — who become fans of hockey, give back to hockey, and play adult league hockey.
In Aspen, Hathaway and other Aspen Junior Hockey coaches use the model to guide the culture of the entire program.
Aspen Junior Hockey coaches teach kids prescribed skills, while connecting the lessons learned playing the game with life lessons they’ll need to better navigate the world.
“The goal is when our kids leave, they are more intrinsically motivated and take more ownership for their sport and their studies, that they have character and they’re respectful of officials and adults,” Hathaway said.
Above all, kids are expected to have fun as they learn these powerful lessons about self-motivation, hard work, empathy, trust, respect, accountability, humility and more.
Kevin Freitas, an Aspen Junior Hockey parent and past volunteer coach, said the model isn’t like the tough-love hockey he grew up playing in Aspen, but he sees how it’s impacted his son’s development and wholeheartedly believes in the principles.
“I think it’s groundbreaking and it’s going to be good for the big picture, from mites to high school,” Freitas said. “You have to look at the big picture when it comes to development.”
According to the American Development Model, “overall athlete development involves not only sport-specific skills and an understanding of the game, but also understanding kids while developing general athleticism and fitness, fundamental movement skills, recovery, nutrition, and mental skills.”
Freitas said this model, and the sport of hockey in general, teaches an incredible amount of sportsmanship. Hockey is never a one-man game — you can’t win with just one good player on the team.
“It’s a full team sport,” he said. “The support you have to give to your team members on the ice carries over to school, the playground and into life.”
Aspen Junior Hockey believes in a designed system of coaching that focuses on age-specific biological and psychosocial growth and development.
Below are the principles of the model, which are used to promote age-appropriate athlete development, health and safety, and sustained physical activity throughout life.
Aspen Junior Hockey Development Model