Player Development (Athens Youth Hockey Association | Athens Ohio | Bird Arena)
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The AYHA places a priority on player development at all age divisions, and the Associations utilizes the USA Hockey American Development Model (ADM) as a basis for its youth programs. With the ADM, USA Hockey has created blueprints for youth associations like the AYHA to utilize in practices, which provide:
Age-specific, age-appropriate skill development.
An opportunity to learn and refine basic skills without an over-emphasis on winning in the younger age classifications.
A sensible practice-to-game ratio that provides ample time for skill development, including more opportunities for each youth player to frequently touch the puck in practice.
Practice and game programing that emphasizes engagement, skill repetition, and competition.
Structured training programs for coaches and qualified adult leadership.
A philosophy that reduces player burnout and disenchantment with the game.
Most importantly, the ADM is structured to help coaches make hockey fun for kids, while providing skill improvement. The ADM is specifically tailored to community-based youth hockey with the goal of keeping kids engaged and making optimal use of ice-time without kids and their families feeling undue performance pressure.
Why the Emphasis on More Practices than Games?
There are a number of reasons why the ADM recommends scheduling many more games than practices; first, practices provide many more opportunities for each player to touch a puck or work on a technique than a game. Second, a league-emphasis on games instead of practices can lead to the scoreboard becoming more important than the development of skills, which can do a disservice to the growth of a youth player’s abilities during a season. Finally, more practice time allows newer players or “late bloomers” an opportunity to catch up with their peers on the ice, who may have developed a bit earlier.
What You Can Expect with Each Age Division
For 6U/8U, the emphasis is on teaching the basics of skating, hockey, and sportsmanship, while emphasizing fun on the ice. In this age division, you can expect to see a wide variety of skill development from child to child; some children have been skating since the age of four, while others who are eight might be stepping on the ice for the first time. The ADM provides strategies to help kids new to skating and hockey catch up to those with more experience by focusing on skill development in the form of on-ice games that encourage participation and fun.
For 10U, the emphasis continues to be on skill development, but with more scrimmages and games where kids begin to understand how to play positions on the ice. Skill development exercises and on-ice games become more challenging to reflect the increasing abilities of the youth players, while still emphasizing fun.
For 12U, the emphasis is still on individual skill development and not winning at any cost. As children mature, an increasing emphasis on athleticism can be introduced on and off the ice, and youth players are encouraged to play multiple sports throughout the year or engage in other fitness activities to achieve a well-rounded fitness experience.
For 14U, youth players are beginning to put together their skills and hockey knowledge together on the ice. With increasing maturity, new hockey skills become easier to learn, while practices and games become more challenging. Youth players in this division are still highly encouraged to develop their athletic skills by playing multiple sports or engaging in other fitness activities.
At the High School level, the ADM continues age-appropriate concepts and skills, so players continue to enjoy the experience as they develop as hockey players and young adults. More advanced concepts of team play, on-ice skill development, and learning to compete are introduced as each player’s athletic abilities increase.