By USA Hockey
Myth 1: ADM fails in youth goalie development. Kids need to be identified as goaltenders and taught goaltending-specific skills at young ages.
Truth: Almost none of the NHL’s top goaltenders began playing between the pipes until they were at least 9 years old. Finland, which is viewed as a model for producing great goaltenders, doesn’t let kids play full-time in goal until age 10.
Goaltending experts worldwide state that, at 8U, it’s far more important to develop overall athleticism and skating ability than goaltending technique. And, as Kevin Woodley recently wrote in InGoal Magazine, “most NHL goaltending coaches will tell you they’d rather add some structure to a skilled athletic goalie than try to add athleticism to a technician.” Thus, the ADM’s emphasis on development of athleticism at young ages is ideal for skaters and future goalies alike.
Myth 2: To develop understanding of positional play and offsides, 8-year-olds should play full-ice hockey.
Truth: Not only can positional play and offsides be taught with cross-ice hockey, it can be taught more efficiently than in a full-ice environment.
When the puck is dropped, positional play becomes a player’s relationship to the puck, the opponent and the net. All of these elements are key components of the small-area games used in USA Hockey’s American Development Model. By teaching these concepts in the context of small-area games (spacing, gap control, angles, support, body positioning), players not only learn the concepts, but also learn them more efficiently thanks to increased repetitions.
Regarding offsides, it can be easily taught by using a marker and drawing a line across the middle of a cross-ice environment. This line represents the offensive blue line. And, much like positional play, it can be taught more efficiently through cross-ice play, since the number of zone entries (and especially non-breakaway zone entries) is dramatically increased in a cross-ice scenario.
Myth 3: ADM practices don’t provide enough skating, especially long skates.
Truth: Forty to 50 percent of every USA Hockey ADM practice plan is skating-focused. Additionally, the cross-ice environment requires children to take an equivalent number of strides to what an adult takes when covering a full ice sheet. It’s simply scaled for a child’s leg length. Lastly, skating form deteriorates over long distances. Age-appropriate skill development emphasizes development of proper skating form and an increase in quality strides.
But most importantly, what separates players at advancing levels of hockey is their ability to turn, stop, start and change direction. These are the skating skills that are vital to becoming a successful hockey player – and these are the skating skills emphasized by the ADM with small-area games and cross-ice hockey.
Myth 4: The ADM removes competition from 6U and 8U programs.
Truth: Competition is at the heart of the ADM, but it emphasizes age- and developmentally appropriate forms of competition, e.g., two players competing for a loose puck, rather than an overemphasis on the final score of a 6U or 8U hockey game.