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Yohe joins Paralympic teammates at festival

04/13/2010, 9:30am MDT
By Alex Clark

The sixth annual USA Hockey Disabled Festival took place outside of Washington, D.C., this past weekend. And while the event once again featured the top deaf/hard of hearing hockey, special hockey, sled hockey and standing amputee hockey players squaring off against one another, this year’s Disabled Festival welcomed a new set of athletes: Paralympic Gold Medalists.

Yohe covLast month, the U.S. Paralympic Sled Hockey Team won the gold medal at the 2010 Paralympic Winter Games, posting a perfect 5-0-0-0 record without allowing a single goal throughout the tournament. Over the weekend, several of its players attended the Disabled Festival as members of their respective club sled hockey teams.

One of those players is Team USA captain Andy Yohe (Bettendorf, Iowa), who competed for the Rehabilitation Institute of Chicago Blackhawks Sled Hockey team. He toted his gold medal around with him throughout the Festival.

“The Paralympics give us an amazing platform to advertise our sport, so winning a gold there was huge,” he said. “We are very proud of our accomplishment, and honored to share that experience with the kids and other athletes at events like the Disabled Festival.”

USA Hockey’s Disabled Festival itself is a major exhibition for the various disciplines of disabled hockey, and has taken place across the country near major cities like Philadelphia, Chicago and Boston. Next year, the Festival will travel to Minneapolis suburb Blaine.

“It’s great that we get a change to visit a new city every year,” said Yohe. “That gives us a great chance to really showcase all of the disciplines to different audiences.”

For the athletes, the Festival isn’t just a feel-good event. The competition can get intense.

“It can really get competitive,” said Yohe. “A lot of these sled club teams play each other all year long, so some pretty good rivalries form.”

After the games are over, however, Yohe and his Paralympic teammates will return to reveling in the friendship and strong bond that helped lead them to the gold just weeks ago.

“Obviously we formed into a pretty tight family over time,” said Yohe of his teammates, most of whom have been members of the U.S. National Sled Hockey Team for years. “And it’s always good to see family.”

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TRENDING: Right-Sized Youth Sports

09/01/2015, 9:15am MDT
By USA Hockey

Sept. 1, 2015 | More than 40,000 spectators, plus a national television audience, watched the Little League World Series this past Sunday on a glorious afternoon in Pennsylvania. There were smiles, cheers, entertainment and the noticeable absence of demand for those 12- and 13-year-olds to pitch from 60 feet, six inches or run 90 feet between the bases like their professional baseball heroes.

Right-sized baseball and softball fields, along with age-appropriate rule modifications, have been accepted wisdom in youth baseball for more than 50 years.

Coincidentally, while Little League was paring to its finalists, U.S. Soccer announced a nationwide initiative to improve youth skill development. The centerpiece was a shift to small-sided game formats and field sizes to be phased in across the country by August 2017. As part of the new plan, American soccer at U6, U7 and U8 will be played 4v4 on a pitch approximately one-eighth the size of an adult soccer field. Nine- and 10-year-olds will play 7v7 on a one-quarter-scale pitch. Not until age 13 will players begin competing 11v11 on a regulation adult-sized pitch.

“Our number one goal is to improve our players down the road, and these initiatives will help us do that,” said Tab Ramos, U.S. Soccer’s youth technical director. “In general, we would like for players to be able to process information faster, and when they are in this (new) environment, they are going to learn to do that. Fast forward 10 years, and there are thousands of game situations added to a player’s development.”

With this change, American soccer will join sports like baseball, basketball, hockey and tennis, all of which have embraced the skill-development benefits of age-appropriate playing dimensions and competition formats (see chart below).

Those benefits are at the core of USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which was recently praised by the Sports Business Journal as a “trailblazing program.”

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Tag(s): Disabled Festival