By Jim Clare, Illinois Coach-in-Chief & AHAI ADM Coordinator – Heather Mannix recently scheduled a couple Association visits in Illinois as she begins her new role as an ADM regional manager of female hockey for USA Hockey. She spent time with the Franklin Park Panthers 12U and 14U girls’ teams as well as a night on the ice with all five Sabre Hockey girls’ teams (10U, 12U, 14U, 16U, and 19U).
Dan Jablonic, USA Hockey’s ADM regional manager for Illinois, joined Mannix for her visit to local girls’ Associations. While here they participated in on-ice practices with the Panthers and Sabres Girls and held post-skate coaches’ meetings where they covered a variety of topics such as practice planning, USA Hockey’s ladder of development, How to Coach Skills, coaching girls and making it all FUN!
At Franklin Park Mannix also sat down with members of their 12U and 14U girls for a Q&A session, fielding a variety of questions from the younger girls such as “What is your favorite color?” to “Are you famous?” however one 14U Panther profoundly asked Mannix if she played other sports besides hockey, and yet another wanted to know, “Why do you like hockey?” To which Mannix responded “No…Haha, I’m not famous!” and “Because it is the greatest game on earth!”
Mannix also met with AHAI Girls Committee Chair Anita Lichterman to discuss the state of girls’ hockey in AHAI as well as the Central District. Finally, before leaving town, Mannix and Jablonic met with Laura Jordan, Fan Development Coordinator for the Chicago Blackhawks, to further develop USA Hockey’s relationship as it relates to girls’ hockey. All in all, it was a very busy and informative couple of days for both Mannix and Jablonic, We look forward to having them both back to visit our local AHAI clubs in 2020.
In addition to attending local practice and meetings, Heather took the time to sit down with me for a brief interview.
AHAI: Where did you play hockey growing up?
Heather: I played Tier I hockey in Michigan and played at Western Michigan University, but took a 10 year hiatus and focused on my studies and research, but am back on the ice playing adult (women’s) hockey, and loving every minute of it!
AHAI: What led you to your new role at USA Hockey as an ADM regional manager of female hockey?
Heather: A series of doors opened up. I was presenting the research I worked on with Amanda Visek at The George Washington University on the Fun Integration Theory at USA Hockey Level 4 Coaching Clinics and met Ken Martel. Ken is USA Hockey’s technical director of ADM. So when I heard about a staff opening in the ADM department, I decided to throw my hat in the ring. This is my dream job!!! I’m still pinching myself. I get to marry my two passions in life, research and hockey!
AHAI: On what topic is the research focused?
Heather: Well, children cite ‘fun’ as the primary reason for participation in organized sport and its absence as the number one reason for youth sport attrition. Therefore, the purpose of the study was to develop a theoretical framework of fun using a novel mixed-method assessment of participants in sport (FUN MAPS) via concept mapping.
The research centers on The Fun Integration Theory, basically what does fun mean to players. It’s absolutely fascinating. The research shows that Trying Hard, Positive Coaching, and Positive Team Dynamics were the key factors of a child having fun while playing sports. Winning, while on the list of things that make sport fun, was much further down. Parents, and adults in general equate ‘fun’ with ‘goofing off’. Fun and athlete development are not mutually exclusive, but actually go hand-in-hand. If your readers would like to delve into the Fun Integration Theory, they can click here to read our work.
AHAI: What was your goal in coming to Illinois these past few days?
Heather: First, I wanted to introduce myself and let the clubs and their coaches know that I am resource for them and their girls’ programs as they work to develop age-appropriate training for their players.
Secondly, I wanted to learn about the landscape of girls’ hockey in Illinois. I want to understand what unique challenges Illinois girls’ teams and clubs face and how USA Hockey can help them streamline and apply ADM principles. What works in another region of the country may not work for clubs here. Finally, I wanted to be a sponge. I just want to learn as much as I can from each club’s program that I visit, and in turn share that information with other clubs around the country.
AHAI: Has there been anything that has stuck-out to you during your visit here or with other clubs across the U.S.?
Heather: Yes. I grew up playing hockey during the pre-ADM era. I am amazed by the level of skill and ability that’s coming out of the programs that have adopted ADM principles. To see it working is so cool. The girls being exposed to ADM, their technique is better and their hockey IQ is far greater than when I was playing.
ABOUT: Heather Mannix, MS, a native Michigander, grew up playing AAA hockey in the MAHA organization and continues to play hockey to this day. She earned her master’s degree in Exercise Science from The George Washington University (GW), during which time she was recognized by the Exercise & Nutrition Sciences Department for her outstanding thesis research and awarded the 2013 Excellence in Research Award. Thereafter, she managed the department’s exercise physiology and body composition laboratory, while also holding a Research Associate position with Dr. Amanda J. Visek, co-authoring the original FUN MAPS paper entitled, “The fun integration theory: Toward sustaining children and adolescents’ sport participation” published in the Journal of Physical Activity & Health. Ms. Mannix worked closely on domestic and international FUN MAPS research projects, while co-authoring refereed research papers, most recently published in the International Journal of Sports Science & Coaching and the Women in Sport & Physical Activity Journal and delivered presentations and conducted workshops with Dr. Visek. Passionate about intersecting sport psychology with research and applied practice, Ms. Mannix is dedicated to promoting positive sporting experiences for children at all levels of the game and was involved in the USA Hockey Coaching Education Program before being named as ADM Regional Manager of Female Hockey for USA Hockey. Heather previously worked as a Corrective Exercise Specialist at APEX Physical Therapy in Brighton, MI.