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10U: The Big Picture in Your Child’s Development

10/01/2014, 1:45pm MDT
By Jessi Pierce - Special to USA Hockey

What comes to mind when you hear American Development Model? For most parents and coaches, the immediate picture is of young, beginner-level players on a segmented sheet of ice. While that image isn’t entirely inaccurate, it’s merely a small snapshot of a much larger vista.

“I do believe the (ADM) message is out there and accepted,” said Joe Doyle, assistant coach at Air Force Academy. “Coaches and parents are seeing it and it makes sense and they are more than willing to listen. Now it’s getting them to understand the specifics of why we use it and how it works; explaining why the structure is so important and why are we doing this.”

To see the ADM big picture, consider all the pieces to the puzzle. Cross-ice hockey and station-based practices are only two elements of many that support the ADM’s main focus: doing what’s best for kids and helping every player reach their full potential.

By melding research, findings and experience from the worlds of sport science, hockey, child development and medicine, the ADM was built to focus on age-appropriate, age-specific skill development, fun and building a passion for the sport at all ages. The full scope of USA Hockey’s ADM includes proven long-term athlete development underpinnings and age-specific training from ages 4 to 18. It’s a road map for the American hockey player to reach their full potential and cultivate a life-long love of the game.

“Kids need a building-block approach to get them to be their very best,” said Doyle. “Whether it’s academic learning or sports, it’s vital to their development to form that foundation.”

Elite Development

Given the choice between two players who started hockey at the same age, Doyle said he would select the player who was coached within USA Hockey’s ADM.

“The type of model that promotes a well-rounded athlete from the age of 4, 5, 6 and on is optimal for development,” he said. “The player who didn’t focus on those windows of trainability or who didn’t take time off from hockey has very little upside left in his or her game.

“The player who came up through the ADM-type model has the overall package. Coaches at higher levels know that, and 99 times out of 100, will take that player over the other.”

The ADM uses long-term athlete development principles to build players who reach their full potential, meaning a higher ceiling for every ability level including the elite player. USA Hockey’s ADM takes advantage of proven windows of trainability, applying science to player development. Because of where they are in their physical and mental development, as per the windows of trainability, 10U players should be introduced to an increasing level of instruction focused on the technical skills of hockey. At least 75 percent of the practice should be focused on skills.

“At nine and 10 (years old), not only can they physically do those techniques properly, but intellectually they can digest some of those principles and skills a coach is trying to teach,” Doyle says.

Providing Growth

Doyle reminds parents that, just like anything else good in life, a player’s development process shouldn’t be rushed.

“If you’re going to be a farmer, you can’t skip all the steps of properly preparing your soil, layering your seed or getting the right balance of sun and water,” Doyle said. “You can’t hurry up and grow things in a day just because you want to see the final product now. If the doctor tells you to take one vitamin a day, you don’t get better by taking 10.”

Patience is a virtue, and sometimes a difficult one to gain, but trust the process. In hockey, the most efficient route to your child’s full potential doesn’t include shady shortcuts. It’s actually a well-lit path, thoroughly planned and patient, paved with age-appropriate competition and age-specific training.

Find out more about ways the ADM will help your 10U player by visiting

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