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Development Doesn't Need to Break the Bank

02/24/2015, 4:30pm MST
By Todd Smith - Special to USA Hockey

Some parents associate on-ice development with cost. If it costs more, it must be better – a better opportunity, a better piece of equipment, a better team, etc. But the cost of player development doesn’t have to be high.

According to Cary Eades, head coach and general manager of the USHL’s Sioux Falls Stampede, effective player development can happen close to home and, more importantly, is completely affordable.

“I’ve had a lot of players benefit from training at local outdoor rinks,” said Eades.

Eades was an assistant coach at the University of North Dakota for 15 years and head coach at Warroad High School in Warroad, Minnesota, for 11. During that time, he helped guide countless athletes and he believes that player development shouldn’t require families to travel far and wide and spend a lot of money.

Eades offers the following advice on how a player and family can avoid breaking the bank in pursuit of development:

Oshie’s Path to the Olympics

All hockey players, at all levels, in any neighborhood can benefit from training at local rinks. Need proof? Look no further than a 2014 United States Olympian.

“I coached T.J. Oshie at Warroad and then at North Dakota,” said Eades. “He came to Warroad, Minnesota, from the state of Washington as a sophomore. He hadn’t skated a whole lot. But he utilized the open practice times. He was a rink rat like no other.”

Oshie’s countless repetitions during his scheduled and unscheduled practice sessions truly paid dividends. His slick stickhandling and crafty moves seen in the epic Olympic shootout in Sochi were forged in the countless hours he spent practicing alone or with a group of friends on local ice.

“Once he started skating every day, as much as he could, he really developed,” said Eades. “Now, he’s a solid NHL player for the St. Louis Blues and star of the Olympics. He utilized all that open ice time.”

Keep it Local

There’s a notion among some 14U/16U parents and players today that they have to travel to showcase events for player development and exposure to scouts and coaches. While some of these showcase events can be helpful, Eades believes they aren’t necessary.

“The many nuances of the game can be learned and worked on right down at your local rink or at home,” said Eades.  “You can work at the rink individually. You can develop stickhandling and shooting. It’s all about repetition.”

If a player practices enough, works on their game, and develops overall athleticism, coaches and evaluators will find them. And it doesn’t matter where you’re from.

“In some areas, we’re blessed to skate outdoors,” said Eades. “In other areas they play street hockey or roller hockey. But it’s all great for hand-eye coordination. You can work on your release, your coil, and your bodyweight transfer anywhere.”

The Rink Rat Mentality

Eades encourages players to play hockey for fun away from their organized team practices.

“A little bit of the rink rat player is leaving our game. It’d be nice to get that back,” said Eades. “Put the video games down, pick up a stick, and work on your game. But hang with your buddies, too, and have some fun.”

Unstructured play can be a big boost to a player’s development if they choose to take advantage of it.

“That’s where the kids really work and perfect their game,” said Eades. “That’s where they build the passion for the game.”

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