Facts, Fiction and Information about Mite Hockey and the ADM

Fact: The American Development Model (ADM) is the most effective way to develop the long-term athlete, specifically hockey players. Don’t just take our word for it, please take some time to do a little research on your own.  For any understanding of how long-term athlete development relates to the sport of hockey we suggest you watch this short video. You should also visit the USA Hockey websites Long-Term Athlete Development area. It provides very detailed information of the program for all age levels. The ADM is not just about Mite hockey; it is about developing the skills of players at each level to help them prepare for the next levels.

Information: There is very little disagreement on the ADM as a learning tool at any administrative level. The roadblock for some is the mandated size of the 8U playing surface. While there is much evidence supporting small area competition, we have not been presented with any evidence on how full-ice games benefit 8U player development. Reduced size facilities are common in almost all other youth sports. Unfortunately until now it has been difficult to reduce a hockey rink to a more appropriate size surface. Check out this video and see adults’ reaction when they try to play on a supersized sheet of ice that simulates what it is like to for Mites to play on full ice.

Fact: The American Development Model is an 8 stage blue print for progressively building age-specific skills in order to have success at all ability levels of the game.  USA Hockey has given youth coaches a guideline for age appropriate on-ice development with age-specific drills which ensure that our players learn how to use their edges, stick handle and shoot a puck — the fundamentals for success in the sport — all while participating in a competitive, fun and nurturing environment. 

Information: USA Hockey volunteers who wish to coach at this or any level are required to attend coaching clinics and take on-line instruction specific to the age group they are coaching. They are provided with practice plans and other training tools so they are equipped with the basics to teach your child properly. Many go on to take classes and training above and beyond what is required to improve their coaching skills. No other hockey programs outside of MAHA and USA Hockey provide any of these tools and training, nor do they require coaches to attend any sport-specific training to help them become better coaches.

Fact: Hockey is a late developing sport and close to 60% of players drop out by the age of 14. The supporters of alternative programs ignore this research.  Instead of developing the love of the game and building the pyramid of basic skills at the youngest ages, they accelerate past that as though these players are young adults. Unfortunately, just because you might be more developed for your age or have some advanced skills at age 8 does not mean that when you reach 12 or 14 you will still be ahead of the pack. Following the development model, combined with years of hard work, is the best path to assure your chances of becoming a great player by the time you reach adulthood.

Fiction: One argument used against the 8U age level of the ADM is that the cross ice only approach for ages 6-8 misses an important window for teaching skating skills and ADM’s cross ice only approach limits a player’s ability to develop skating fundamentals such as open ice speed forward and backward.  The science behind the ADM states that a player between the ages of 6-9 has a potential for growth in the areas of quickness, agility and subtleness (1st speed window).  At this age the player’s musculature is not developed enough to teach a powerful stride for 200 ft.  USA Hockey encourages skating coaches at practices to work with players skating techniques so that when the body reaches that stage of muscle development for a complete stride, the player is ready and successful.

Information: In small area games, body contact occurs more frequently, which helps the player learn how to use his/her body to create advantages during game play.  The payoff for this skill will occur as the player moves up to the checking ages given that more players will be accustomed to body contact allowing for a smoother transition.  Further, this contact may result in fewer explosion-type checks in favor of riding the man off the puck in order to reacquire the puck in transition, the result being fewer injuries.

Information: Participating in half-ice games at the Mite age level allows every player an opportunity to touch the puck more during game play.  Major U.S. youth sports like soccer, baseball, football and basketball all have surfaces that have been age appropriately modified creating a better opportunity for younger athletes to learn to play the game properly.  In contrast, watching a full ice 6U or 8U hockey game there are often 2 or 3 players on each of these teams that dominate play. While you might think, “at least these kids will be getting better” you are wrong.  The fact is in a small area game scenario, the more skilled players are challenged because they must now maneuver through smaller spaces.  Their skill set of edge control, puck control and body position improve immensely and is not limited to anticipating a quick break while waiting at the red line.  Recently the NHL helped run a study using the same analytics on Little Caesars Mite Hockey players that they use on the pros.  They studied the difference between size of the surface played on and the resulting benefits for the players. The results of the testing are contained in this short video.

Ultimately, the ADM has put fun back in the game for the kids, giving more of a “pond hockey feel” where the game itself is the greatest teacher.  While more fun and reduced costs may be good reasons to play on a small ice, the true underlining reason is that playing on reduced surfaces all the way until the Squirt level develops players to be better prepared to compete at a higher level.

Think about these facts when are you asked to choose between USA Hockey programs and others that are offered. USA Hockey’s decades of dedication to research and development has resulted in a model, which allows each athlete the opportunity for getting the proper fundamentals they will need for long-term achievement. And a model that allows them to be prepared to reach whatever goals and dreams the wish to achieve in the sport of hockey.  Without these fundamentals, will they be ready when the reach the Midget level?  I believe USA hockey has answered this question. The ADM is your player’s best bet for success!

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By Jason Reynolds, Director of Operations & Marketing 09/21/2022, 1:15pm EDT