Holy Name Youth Hockey provides an environment where all players have the opportunity to develop a passion and appreciation for ice hockey through individual skill development, teamwork, competitive play and camaraderie.
Priority will be placed on teaching our youth the skills necessary to maintain a lifelong passion for playing the game of ice hockey. We hope to accomplish this by emphasizing good coaching at every level, running efficient and fast-moving practices, and focusing on individual-skill development. Again, we want what is best for your children during the season, and this usually happens when they are appropriately challenged but also given frequent opportunities for individual, on-ice success.
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In fact, he didn’t point a single finger at anything that happened in Malmo, Sweden, but pointed, instead, directly back home to what is not happening in every local rink in the country.
“It’s where we’re at with the development state in our country,” he told reporters.
In a TSN interview, Sutter went deeper: “Development starts at bantam age, at pee wee age, development starts at 10 years of age.
“It’s not about X’s and O’s and those types of things – it’s about development and skills and skating. You see how some of these teams in Europe, how they’ve done a remarkable job with that, and it’s something, I think, in our country we have to evaluate.
“There’s too much focus on winning and losing at such a young age and not enough about the skill part of it and the skating part of it, because that’s truly where it starts,” he said. “I’d personally like to see more skill, more creativity, because we had to play against it here and we got beat by it some nights.”
There is a North American attitude toward hockey practice that is simply bad. You can see it in the youngsters who don’t want to get out of bed for the 6:00 a.m. ice time and you can even see it at virtually any NHL practice.
Once the coach’s whistle blows long, most (but not all) North Americans head for the dressing room, while the Europeans tend to stay out – fooling about on the ice the way North American kids only do now on outdoor rinks.
No one, however, hates practice as much as the North American parent. Since they have to bring the child to the rink, they want a return on that investment of time. Games they can easily measure; progress, less so. Game conditions certainly teach survival, but only experiment and repetition create skill.
Parents are often, sadly, the main push behind tournaments – costly drives or even flights away – as, increasingly, they twist their child’s minor hockey experience into their own life. Those who push back are often pushed away.
Sutter’s statements, some will find surprising, fall very much in line with Hockey Canada’s 2013 “long-term player development plan,” which is only now being distributed throughout the provinces and organizations.
That document, five years in the making, calls for a far greater emphasis on practice and using other sports – no year-round hockey – to develop a “physical literacy” for life.
“Evidence would suggest,” the document argues, “that the number of games played by youngsters in Canada slows the development of players.”
The message is clear: Cut way down on games, de-emphasize wins and losses, get off the tournament carousel, make far better use of ice space, work on skills and speed – and make it fun.
Hockey Canada even offers a quote from Hall-of-Famer Aristotle: “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then, is not an act, but a habit.”
Meet 18-year-old Mikaela Shiffrin. Everyone will be meeting her soon enough. As a World Cup slalom champion, she’s likely to become one of the big stories of next month’s Sochi Winter Olympics.
But to understand why, you should understand that Shiffrin is a useful case study for the reverse approach to parenting a talented kid — what you might call the Do-it-Yourself approach to talent development. It’s an approach that focuses on 1) valuing the daily skill-development process over competition; 2) maintaining family normalcy.
As her father Jeff recalled:
“These top-level coaches would tell me that Mikaela was just ripping up a racecourse. And I would say: ‘Yeah, I agree, but she’s just 9 years old.’ And they’d say, ‘What are your plans for her?’ And I’d answer: ‘Plans? Well, tomorrow she’s trying out for a part as the angel in the Christmas play.’”
In the Shiffrins’ telling, much of Mikaela’s development was built on homespun methods. To teach balance, they bought a unicycle. Instead of racing big courses, Mikaela spent time skiing an icy 300-foot hill, working on perfecting her technique. In summer, they used in-line skates and broomsticks to simulate slalom gates.
To be sure, Shiffrin competed at a high level, and worked with some of the finest coaches around. But every decision was built around the daily process of mastering skills — which captured Mikaela’s imagination more than any medal. As Kirk Dwyer, Shiffrin’s coach and headmaster of Burke Mountain Academy, puts it,
“She truly believed that the focus should be on the process of getting better and not race results. She does that to this day. Everyone on the World Cup says they want to race like they practice, but how many actually do it? Mikaela can because she’s not thinking about trying to win. She’s thinking about getting better.”
If the big sports programs are akin to the factory-farm approach to developing talent, you might call this approach Free Range Mastery. It sounds revolutionary, but it’s really not all that different from the approach followed by Bode Miller, Serena and Venus Williams, and of course, Tiger Woods. A few reasons why it works:
1) True ownership of the skill-development process. In big programs, the power is held by the coaches, creating a tendency for the kid to become a highly obedient automatons — achieving for others, not themselves. In the free-range approach, however, the dynamic is reversed. The kid (and parents) remain the master of the daily process, able to innovate, test, and ultimately drive the improvement process.
2) More adaptability. Big programs, by necessity, tend to put everyone into categories and timelines, with the associated grid of expectations. If you don’t achieve X by age Y, then you have the risk of being perceived (and perceiving yourself) as a failure. But talent development is never a one-size-fits-all experience, and the line of progression is rarely smooth. Keeping things loose — being able to take some time off, or test-drive a new coach or fresh approach — is beneficial in the long run.
3) Fewer demotivating experiences. A kid’s desire is a fragile thing, and nothing extinguishes it faster than getting crushed on a big stage. Controlling the big-pond competitive environment allows skills (especially emotional skills) to grow at their own pace.
4) Embracing the power of normalcy. Doing chores, homework, and being a regular kid whenever possible acts like a powerful drug, helping to build emotional skills, resilience, and the foundation to deal with whatever comes along.
But perhaps the biggest reason the DIY approach works is because it is aligned with the way skill actually develops: not through splashy public accomplishments but by something quieter and closer to the bone.
Jeff Shiffrin put it best:
“Some people might call our approach intense. But it’s not, because the motivation is not to be better than other people at something. The motivation comes from a belief that almost anything can be mastered if you’re willing to put in the hours to master it. If you’re going to do something, do it as best as you can.”
And Frans Nielsen (seen at right in his NY Islander's uniform) said there’s another reason why his hometown and country (Herning, Denmark) is producing NHL talent. There is almost no emphasis on team play or winning, but there is on developing individual skills. “Playing defense and blocking shots and things like that are a mentality you can learn when you get older,” Nielsen said. “Skating and shooting and stickhandling are the things you learn when you’re young.”--Hockey News Magazine
Many AAA and similar hockey programs throughout the country market their ability to identify elite hockey players, group these players together and train them using year-round, professionally designed programs. These early talent identification programs seem logical at first. Why not separate the good skaters from the bad to make practice more effective and games faster? There are, however, major flaws with the early talent identification model.
We have an incredibly poor ability to recognize athletes who will be elite in the future. Prior to puberty, it’s nearly impossible to judge a player’s future potential given the major physical changes that occur later in life. Even when players reach the high school level, the elite ranks continuously change with new players developing late and others losing their relative advantage. Instead of identifying the players with the most potential, we tend to select the oldest or most physically mature players in any given age bracket. This bias affects community associations and AAA programs alike.
Early talent identification programs almost always argue for players to train year-round and as much as possible using sport-specific training. These programs promote the idea that early specialization is necessary to stay elite. Contrary to developing athletes, however, these programs and the early specialization philosophy hurt athletic development. In fact, a study on German Olympians found participation in early talent identification programs to be negatively correlated with future success1.
If you’re a parent, be careful what you sign your little skater up for. The very program claiming to make him the next Sidney Crosby might do just the opposite. Recently Brent Sutter, former NHL player and head coach of the Red Deer Rebels WHL team, stated in the Edmonton Journal, “It is so noticeable on a hockey team that the kids who have played other sports and experienced different things are always the smarter players on your team, and they are able to handle adversity better” (March 3, 2013 – “Wanted for NHL, all hockey: True athletes”). Sutter goes on to explain how his team is scouting for players with multi-sport backgrounds – in other words, true athletes. Early talent identification programs create just the opposite type of athlete.
And more often than not, parents are being misled into thinking that their players are elite relative to their peers. Based upon the number of players participating in elite or AAA programs in Minnesota alone, what percentage of all Minnesota youth hockey players do you think are considered elite? The answer to this question should cast some doubt into the promises of early talent identification programs as well as their motives.
Josh Levine is a former Jefferson Jaguar, Princeton University graduate, founder of The Fortis Academy, and author of “Save Our Game: What’s wrong with hockey training today and how to fix it.” He can be reached at
A Message from the Ontario Minor Hockey Association
A PATIENCE PLAN FOR HOCKEY
The Ps of Patience
Why do we need PATIENCE from today’s hockey coaches, parents and executives? We need patience because we need players who love the game and are happy people both at the rink and away from the rink. It’s all about the kids!!
A patient approach does so much for a player’s development now and in the future. Young players need to feel supported and comfortable in a nuturing environment that promotes healthy self esteem and appropriate development time.
As Jean- Jacques Rousseau stated “Nature decrees that children should be children before they become adults. If we try to alter this natural order they will reach adulthood prematurely but with neither substance nor strength.”
Kids are not mini adults who can understand a coach or parent getting so upset about a game. A fifteen minute tirade after a novice game just tells a kid that he’s doing things all wrong and making the coach angry. A parent giving negative feedback on the ride home is telling their child they aren’t good enough. It has nothing to do with development but instead shows impatience with the process. My observation of many coaches today is that they are “over the top” serious. They use too many angry tones that put kids on edge and make it hard for them to perform to their potential. Many parents today get too caught up in comparing their kids to others and expecting them to be better than they are capable of. So the question is how do we get these adults to take a more long term view and a more patient approach to hockey? Having a patience plan might be the answer. Following the Ps of patience can help players build confidence in themselves and eventually become the best player they can be. It might not mean an NHL career but it will mean they will continue to love the game and want to be involved in the future. Here are the Ps of patience.
We have to start with our organizations taking a long term view not just going with year to year quick fixes. The executives who choose the coaches and develop the programs must remember that there is no use winning if winning makes some kids feel like losers. A coach who wins a championship by over playing 3 or 4 kids does not have the right purpose. The organization has to recognize this and not allow it to happen. Winning is just one component of success along with development and retention of players.
Commitment to Process
A commitment to “Long Term Athlete Development” has to be the philosophy. Athletes develop best in a positive environment where relationships are important. Teaching kids how to win and how to be successful is the key rather than focusing just on wins and losses. Focus on the process and the small steps that lead to big leaps when the time is right. Pushing too hard too soon just leads to frustration for everyone involved and in fact pushes kids out of the game.
In the mental health field perspective is everything. Remembering “its only hockey” is a good place to start. Coaches and parents need to leave their egos at home in order to develop some self control around the rink. Reflect on what occurs when you become impatient. As a parent, what affect are you having on other parents or on your own child? As a coach, what affect are you having on the team? What affect is your impatience having on the process of development? Practice responding to situations rather than reacting. Be the calm one and remember that “Angry can’t be Patient”.
Persevere but be Proactive
We need to persevere but at the same time remember that patience isn’t lazy or laid back. Instead it’s action without the tension that causes stress. Try new ways of doing things: new drills, new approaches before games, new goals. We should be challenging the players in positive and realistic ways that are consistent with their skill level. Recognize there will be ups and downs in a season; kids are kids and they get tired and lose focus. Patience allows a player to make mistakes and learn from them. It puts the focus on what’s right with the player not what’s wrong with them; on their strengths rather than their weaknesses.
Ultimately our goal as hockey stakeholders is to have patient players who are performing at the peak of their abilities. “Patient athletes display composure, perseverance and diligence in their performance. Self control is an asset in sports because it makes you better and it helps you make right decisions at the right moments.” (M. Edger) We want players who are physically and psychologically fresh. Not under the pressure that fear and an impatient approach bring. Be patient and let them play! They will develop that love for the game that hockey should be all about.
For someone to have a future in this game as a goal scorer, the most important area for improvement is raising the bar of personal expectations. It is the kiss of death to spend an entire season in a designated role as a forward who contributes nothing more than hustle. That is why, when cuts are made, it is usually better for a goal scorer to play on the weaker team and score a ton of goals.
Confidence comes from success, and improvement follows. This is not to say it is bad to play “up” for a forward whose future is to be a grinding checker. But, for someone who wants to be a goal scorer, it is imperative to score by the bucketful – goals or assists – every season.
The same could be said for making brilliant plays, being creative on offense and handling the puck in traffic. Practicing these skills is one step, but the most important experience is to try things in games and succeed more often than not. That doesn’t happen much for the final players to make the ‘A-Team.’ They get less ice time, have the puck on their stick for fewer seconds in games, and are given a shorter leash by the coach to learn by trial and error. On the other hand, the top players on the ‘B-Team’ can experiment, be creative and fail sometimes. They’re still given a free reign to create.
The hardest skill to coach is confidence – poise in highly competitive situations. Reality is the most potent teacher, and success is required to elevate a player’s personal expectations.
Washington Capitals Hockey Team
All parents are asked to adhere to the 24-hour rule. Meaning, if you have a question, comment, concern or complaint for your coach, assistant coach, executive board member or president...you should wait twenty-four hours before approaching any individual. Discussions (and this includes phone, text and email) immediately following games or practices can sometimes be counterproductive. Any conversations should first be addressed to the coach/assistant coach before elevating issues to board members or association president. Our goal as an association is to improve your sons' or daughters' hockey skills in a safe and fun environment.