How important has USA Hockey’s American Development Model been to the Grand Traverse City Hockey Association’s girls’ program? Under-12 coach Kraig Visser could speak ad infinitum on this topic.
“Last season was our fourth using the ADM, and the results were nothing short of amazing,” Visser said. “We started the 2011-12 season with 12 girls on the U-12 roster and ended last season with 46 girls in our youth program.
“We more than doubled our weekly practice time. I was shocked that many girls didn’t want the season to end. I was concerned that more practice would burn out these kids, but the opposite happened. They took note of their improvement and success and wanted to keep going. One of the main factors was quite simply they were having so much fun with the ADM practices.”
The Michigan-based association last season suited up girls’ teams at the U-8, U-10, U-12 (two teams), U-16 and U-19 levels.
“Including U-19, we had an increase from 46 to about 70 girls,” Visser said. “When I first heard about the ADM, I was out of hockey for 20 years and said I would coach four years ago. Literally within minutes of studying ADM my hair stood on end.
“Nelly Heitman was the woman who asked me to coach and I agreed. I was on board in five minutes. It’s been such a blessing for our program.”
Visser noted that girls who entered the association at 8 years of age and who are now 12 compete at the upper Tier II as well as the Tier I level. Again, implementation of the ADM has factored into the improvement of the girls’ skills.
“I haven’t done anything but ADM from Day 1 other than the first practice,” Visser said. “I do specific drills regarding what I think the girls need.
“We’re able to put more kids on the ice. They’re all moving because of the ADM.”
Visser credits Bill and Nelly Heitman with forming a 12-girl team that, initially, competed against Mite D boys. He refers to Cherie Hitchens as a “super manager,” the person who takes care of everything behind the scenes for the travel teams so the coaches can focus on coaching.
“She’s a huge asset to the girls’ program,” said Visser.
Coaches who’ve also played a major role in the program include Scott Huiskens, Chris Adams, John Ewens, Joe Quandt, Jeff Swanson, Eric Fournier, Mickey Dean and Lance Miller.
Then, there’s MAHA representative Patricia Brumbaugh, who suggested the Bring a Friend to Hockey Program.
“We did that at the end of the 2011-12 season and it was very successful,” Visser said. “That’s one reason why there were more girls in the program last season and why there could be more next season.”
Grand Traverse City Hockey Association also implemented One Goal Gear.
“One Goal Gear is huge,” Visser said. “It’s another barrier that’s removed when parents sign up their kids for hockey. Their whole attitude changes when I talk to parents about having gear. They’re ready to try it, especially when you have gear.
“There aren’t any barriers to try it. We let them have the gear for the year. … They don’t want to buy gear if their kids don’t want to try hockey.”
In Visser’s opinion, utilizing the ADM and minimizing the amount of travel has enabled the Grand Traverse City Hockey Association to keep its fees down as compared with other associations.
“Because we have a lot of girls on the ice together practicing, it helps us keep the program cost effective,” he said. “Many of the teams we compete against typically spend around $3,000 for ice costs while our players spend under $800 for practices, games and miscellaneous costs.
“We wouldn’t be able to build a program if we charged $3,000 in our small town.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.