Any misconceptions about the scope of USA Hockey’s American Development Model disappeared quickly at the United States Olympic Training Center last week, where a cross-section of the nation’s hockey leaders gathered for a first-of-its-kind high-performance symposium.
Working in conjunction with the U.S. Olympic Committee, the NHL, the NCAA and worldwide authorities on high-performance sport, USA Hockey invitees explored the process of honing teenage talent. Discussion went far beyond on-ice tactics, extending into sports psychology, nutrition, strength training and sporting lifestyles, all of which help form the ADM.
Among the attendees was Dave Peters, a Selects Academy 16U boys hockey head coach at South Kent School in Connecticut.
Prior to joining the Selects Academy, Peters spent 15 years as an assistant coach at Dartmouth College, helping develop talent for the Big Green and beyond. Fifteen of his players eventually skated in the NHL. Peters believes that high-performance player development involves age-appropriate training and competition regardless of whether the athletes are youngsters, teenagers or college stars.
“My perception hasn’t changed. I love the ADM,” he said. “I’m all about small games, cross-ice and doing things that put players in a situation to make plays.
“How many times during a game does a player have an opportunity to make a play? In today’s game – college, pro, even midget hockey – people backcheck so hard that there aren’t that many opportunities to make plays. You might have a couple a game. So, when you play small-area hockey, you have multiple opportunities to make plays, find people, get open, support – things that are players’ biggest weaknesses. Making plays is an area where small-area games can really help, so I’m a huge believer. We used it in college and we use it at midget level as well.”
Like many of the symposium attendees, Peters has a firm grasp of on-ice development, but less experience with study of the nuances in adolescent brain development that can influence on-ice performance. He cited lessons from the sports psychology presentations as a key takeaway.
“The ways to talk to the team and the players, to motivate them and to reinforce the work ethic rather than skill, will be a huge tool for me,” he said. “So many of the kids look at who’s more skilled, and sometimes they shut down when they see somebody more skilled, but to emphasize the work ethic – which is most great players’ best attribute – that’s something that I will bring back to my team and emphasize.”
Another perspective on the symposium came from former Northeastern University captain Stephanie Wood. She stepped behind the bench after college and led two impressive resurgences, as the head coach at Austin Prep and as a coach and director with Massachusetts’ Islanders Hockey Club.
“The first thing you think with the ADM is young players, but it really doesn’t stop there,” she said. “The training and techniques are different all the way up.”
Armed in part with a solid understanding of those ADM principles, Wood piloted Austin Prep to its best performances in a decade and helped inspire a three-fold increase in girls hockey participation with the Islanders, along with multiple state championships. She was eager to aim even higher after the symposium.
“USA Hockey has done a great job with presenting a diverse group of topics and covering everything. It’s great information,” said Wood. “It’ll definitely help educate our coaches, parents and the entire organization, from on-ice ideas to things I’ll apply program-wide.”