If the adage “success begets success” is true, then we should definitely listen to what Dan Muse has to say.
Muse was the head coach of the U.S. Under-18 Men's National Team that in April won gold at the IIHF Under-18 Men's World Championship in thrilling fashion. He was recently hired as an assistant coach for the New York Rangers.
Muse recently chatted about what made that team so special and some of the keys for 14U and 16U players trying to take their games to the next level this summer.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.
Q: Maybe we can start with the success you just had with the U18s. What were some of the things you were happiest with, not just what they achieved but how they achieved it?
Dan Muse: Well, I think number one I was really happy with this group because they're such a competitive group. And that's an everyday thing, like they're really competitive in every practice, they really push each other. And I think that was a quality that we really liked about this group and that pushed these guys to continue to grow over their two years here. The way they pushed it in the weight room. Every practice, they try to make it purposeful. And then there was a commitment to play for the crest, the commitment to play for each other, for that guy next to him and across the room in the locker room. When you’ve got a locker room full of guys that are doing that, you're probably going to have a good chance of working towards your collective full potential and I think that's what this group did.
Q: From a standpoint of big picture development, a lot of the players you got have come up all the way through USA Hockey’s American Development Model. How much of that philosophy do you see in the players coming up?
Muse: Small area games, that's something that I think players are more used to coming up with those. And exercises that are more purposeful and in more of a confined space, I think they've seen more of that as they're coming through youth hockey. And then the skill set of the players too that's coming up. I mean, I think it's at a very high level right now and that's definitely something that you can see through these years coming up through USA Hockey.
Q: What are some of the best things 14U/16U players can be doing right now to make a big jump next year and beyond?
Muse: I still think especially when you're talking about that 14U group, I think you're still in that stage where, you know, you want to continue to develop as an athlete. There is a high, high number of players on this U18 team that in speaking with them I was pleasantly surprised to hear how many of them played multiple sports. I can't think of one player that didn't play multiple sports coming up. Some played baseball, you know, some played lacrosse or soccer. I still think that's really important especially this time of year as you're going into that, you know, offseason training. Continue to develop yourself as an athlete. And then the weight room. Especially as you start to get into that 15, 16 age group it is important. If you can start to develop some more of that speed, that quickness, that strength, that power off the ice, you can make some major strides there in the summertime and that can really carry over once the hockey season starts.
Q: Any advice for players struggling to make decisions about their development paths?
Muse: Well, I think everybody's path is going to look different. There's no one set way to do things in terms of development. You need to focus on making the very most of where you're at and you can't get too far ahead of yourselves. There are a lot of examples of players that started off, especially in this age that we're talking about, you know, at 14, 15, 16 maybe a little bit of a different place, but they made the most out of their situation. They pushed themselves every single day and made the most out of where they are and they end up making their strides and finding another level. Things can change quickly. I think that the focus is wherever you are going into next year, being a great teammate, continuing to develop on and off the ice, being the very best version of you, and working towards your full potential because that's all you can do.
Q: There are highlight reel goals all over social media. There are people announcing their college commitments or even the visits or possibilities. Do you see that stuff impact development?
Muse: Oh, I think that it's very easy to get distracted from what really matters. That's the day and age that we're living in with social media. It's different, it can be harder and I think you’ve got to go back to focusing on what you can control and focusing on what matters. Highlights of yourself or reading what other people are saying about you or reading about what other people are writing about somebody else, things like that don’t matter. That's not helping you. If that becomes the priority, then there's a problem. The focus should be on those things that you can control and making sure that you’re pushing yourself in a positive direction – number one as a person and then also as an athlete, as a student athlete, as a hockey player.