By partnering with the Finnish Ice Hockey Association (FIHA), Aspen Junior Hockey (AJH) has aligned its program with the world leaders in long-term athletic development. With the goal to create and implement a detailed annual plan for each age level (the first of its kind in North America), AJH is intent to provide the tools and structure necessary to operate a world-class youth training program both on and off the ice.
To ensure that AJH takes full advantage of these opportunities, players must learn how to best motivate themselves to train, perform, compete, and manage adversity. Developing intrinsic motivation is critical for the athlete to get the most out of training and competition. For most intrinsically motivated players, their focus is on skill development and continuous improvement, not on contest outcomes or negative consequences. Taking ownership of one’s effort and developing self-drive is critical to learning and harnessing intrinsic motivation.
The coaching culture in Finland places a great emphasis on an athlete’s self drive and their perceptions of ownership, and the results are proven. By giving an athlete the ability to be creative and learn to make decisions on the ice without constant adult directives, skill development and conceptual awareness training are maximized.
In Finland and in Aspen, this principle is promoted during the annual Players Decide initiative (December 18-21), which gives all participating players ownership of their development. During the week, athletes create all team practice plans, while Coaches support and guide the process.
This season, the list of sport clubs participating in the Players Decide awareness initiative has expanded to include clubs from Switzerland, Germany, and now Aspen Junior Hockey (AJH) representing North America. AJH Executive President Shaun Hathaway looks forward to the opportunity. “We are on a list of some extremely impressive international sport clubs participating in an exercise that has been proven to have positive results on player development. As a small youth hockey association in Colorado, we are humbled and excited to join FIHA and others in the Players Decide initiative.”