Dana Borges got a taste of pro hockey, playing for one season in France, but when he returned to the United States, he commenced his coaching career.
After serving as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Stonehill College, he moved onto Colgate University where he is currently a volunteer assistant coach for the men’s hockey team.
When he delved into coaching, it had a profound effect on him.
“Once I started focusing on a coaching career, I gravitated to the American Development Model in terms of understanding how important it is for player development,” said Borges, who was the youth hockey director for the Walpole (Massachusetts) Express during his time on Stonehill’s staff. “It’s important for the amount of touches and repetitions players get in game-like situations. That’s what enables them to develop at a high rate, so they can compete in a game scenario.”
While everybody regardless of age likes to win, Borges learned in recent years that failure isn’t the end of the world.
“A principle that I really like is, ‘Failure is okay,’” he said. “We need to allow our players to fail. Failure is essential to player growth.
“They need to be challenged in order to increase skill sets instead of becoming stagnant. The ADM challenges players, it allows them to fail and grow and overcome and continue at an upward rate instead of leveling out at a certain point.”
Even at Colgate, ADM principles are ingrained during the Raiders practices, proving that the model is age-specific and beneficial for all ages.
“Here at Colgate, we use the principles of the ADM at every practice,” said Borges, who served as the Massachusetts District coach-in-chief/director of ADM and coached at the 2016 USA Hockey National Select 17 Player Development Camp. “We use small-ice games to challenge our players physically and intellectually. It’s huge here in terms of what we’re trying to do to make our team stronger.
“As a staff we ask ourselves, ‘How is this drill competitive and chaotic in terms of how they have to sort things out and how they will develop their physical skills?’ They’re all tenants of the ADM and that’s how we design our drills.”
While some athletes expect success to be instantaneous, Borges is a firm believer in long-term development.
“We always talk about it being a process, and setting goals is important,” he said. “We want to set long-term goals. Then, we set daily objectives in terms of how we can achieve them. Each day, how do we set objectives so that players can achieve long-term goals and that they believe their development path is a long-term model?
“College hockey and the ADM, in terms of a long-term process, go hand in hand and this is great for players.”
While youngsters live in an era of specialization, Borges is a strong proponent of being a versatile athlete instead of allowing children to put all of their eggs in the proverbial one basket. Versatility served him well in multiple ways, not the least of which was when he was asked to transition from defense, which he played in youth hockey, to forward as a collegiate athlete and professional.
“I think it’s extremely important to develop well-rounded athletes,” he said. “The typical model is we would like them to be athletes growing up, and as they get older, develop them as hockey players.
“Sometimes we develop hockey players at young levels and see deficiencies like eye-hand coordination. Then we try to make them athletes after they were hockey players. That doesn’t work as well. We need to create great athletes and then hockey players. If we don’t, it’s going to lead to limited development down the road.”
Borges’ primary responsibility as USA Hockey’s ADM liaison in Massachusetts is communicating with coaches and certifying them at various levels.
“I host five coaching clinics a year,” he said. “The main thing is to spread the knowledge of what the ADM is trying to achieve and how we as coaches can get better every year.
“It’s also important to help coaches at the grassroots level understand how important they are and that the development of skill sets must begin at an early age. Now that I’m coaching at the college level, how do we as a coaching community get our players to be what they need to be when they’re 20 or 21 years old?"
Part and parcel of his coaching clinics is challenging coaches to let go of controlling everything from A to Z. Learning to embrace the chaos that can occur in a game will leave players better prepared for those scenarios.
“Let go of control; create more chaos in game-like situations,” Borges said. “If you can give more control to your players, you’ll see increased development.
“Challenge the players. We want our players to be highly-skilled and creative on the ice. If we always tell them what to do and how to do it, how will they become intelligent and creative players on the ice? That reverts back to challenging our coaches to let go of control and put players in situations where they can think on their own instead of having robots on the ice.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.