COLORADO SPRINGS – When USA Hockey rolled out the American Development Model a little more than five years ago it focused on the youngest players in the game under the banner of “I Am Potential.”
As the ADM continues to grow and improve, the next step in the ladder of development is to take players who have demonstrated a certain level of passion and talent for the game and nurture those traits so that they can turn potential into performance.
To help achieve those lofty goals, USA Hockey has teamed up with the U.S. Olympic Committee to host the first High Performance Symposium, a four-day event meant to communicate that message to coaches involved in the highest levels of the game.
USA Hockey invited 60 coaches from the around the country to get together to share ideas on how to help the ADM take the next step by working with players at the older levels through age appropriate training. The roster of coaches included those working with Tier I and AAA programs, Minnesota high schools, New England prep schools and select Junior programs.
The hope is to encourage those coaches who have already adopted the principles of long-term athlete development to stay the course, while communicating the benefits of the program to some coaches who may not have spent as much time around the ADM.
And that’s exactly what Monday night’s keynote speaker, Stephen Norris is looking to do by challenging every coach in the room to look for new ways to train hockey players without forsaking their past accomplishments.
“If you always do what you’ve always done, you will always get what you always got,” said Norris, who is the director of Sport Physiology & Strategic Planning at the Canadian Sport Centre Calgary.
Norris is no stranger to addressing USA Hockey coaches, presenting at past coaching clinics including the 2014 National Hockey Coaches Symposium in Las Vegas. Among the common themes in his presentations is the Japanese principle of kaizen – which is the quest for constant improvement. He lauded those in attendance for their constant push to improve their coaching skills no matter how long they’ve been behind the bench.
A cornerstone of the ADM is age appropriate training. Norris wants coaches to slow down the rush to the top and not treat youth hockey players as mini-adults.
“An 11-year-old is only 11 once. A 12-year-old is only 12 once,” he said. “This is your window of opportunity. It’s all about the process of building. We have this unfortunate ogre, which is the adult view of the world and we rush, rush, rush, rush, all the way through. And we allow them to advance only because they’re a year older.”
The symposium is about more than critiquing those who may not follow the ADM, or have different views when it comes to player development. It’s about building a bridge with the most influential coaches around the country in hopes of creating a common goal of developing more top-end players.
“We’re extremely excited for this week’s High Performance Symposium,” said Kevin McLaughlin, a USA Hockey senior director who oversees the ADM. “It’s a unique opportunity to bring together some of our leading hockey development partners from all corners of the U.S. to discuss best practices and ways we can all work together to best serve the potential elite player through better programming, better training, better coaching & better communication.
“We hope this week is the first step for this very important partnership among some of our top youth hockey development programs & leaders in the United States.”
Over the course of the week, coaches will hear from an impressive lineup of speakers including coaches from the USOC, the NHL and several international federations. To show that athletic development cuts across the various spectrum of sports, there are invited guests from FIFA, the governing body of international soccer, USA Volleyball and the U.S. Tennis Association.
While all youth sports face many of the same challenges, Norris spent the majority of his presentation stressing that there are common sense solutions that will not only make sports more enjoyable for its participants, but that by taking the best of the past and combining it with a new way of thinking that hockey coaches will help develop better athletes in the future.
“You can change,” Norris prompted the audience. “Take the best of your past and the best of your future, and move forward.”
That’s what this week is all about.