Play hard. Have fun.
Those are more than words on a website, or a motivational phrase coaches often give to their players. It’s a recurring theme of the Admirals Hockey Club, which serves boys and girls throughout the Glen Ellyn, Illinois, area. You see it in the social interaction between players on and off the ice. You’ll find it in the ways players and coaches give back to the community, from serving in local soup kitchens to working with Habitat for Humanity.
Playing hard and having fun is also a big part of USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which the Admirals have implemented over the past six years. The club officially became a model association in 2016, fully committing themselves to the highest standards of youth hockey development.
“It’s a cool idea to get more [puck] touches, and it gives you a template for your season,” said Tom Galvin, the Admirals’ director of player development and a USA Hockey Certified Level 4 coach. “From my perspective, just having that, knowing when to train and how to train, having the material from USA Hockey is very educational.”
Galvin, who oversees the ADM and its concepts throughout the entire Admirals program, played at Notre Dame before spending seven seasons in the AHL, ECHL, UHL and USHL. He has coached the Admirals’ 12U and 14U teams the past four years and conducts private lessons and defensemen summer camps. As someone who is accustomed to using lesson plans in teaching and coaching young players, concepts like the ADM make perfect sense.
“It’s a more efficient use of the ice,” he said. “We should be focusing more on skills, having a practice plan, having stations where you focus on just one skill, and making it more fun rotating through the drills.”
The Admirals place a high priority on its girls program. The club currently fields four girls teams, from 12U-19U. They also offer a Girls United learn-to-play program, a grassroots effort to encourage young girls to take up the sport. According to girls’ hockey director Carla Pentimone, the ADM is about more than just developing on-ice skills; players are encouraged to get to know each other off the ice. Pentimone, a USA Hockey Certified Level 4 hockey director who played at the University of Wisconsin under Olympic gold medalist Mark Johnson, coordinates ice cream socials, get-togethers with face painting, a Hockeyween costume contest, and other bonding activities for the girls.
“We have a buddy program, where our 12Us pair with our 16s and our 14s pair with our 19s,” Pentimone explained. “Throughout the year, they write each other letters, go to each other’s games. Our girls seem to like it a lot.”
Pentimone says the girls even have their own Try Hockey for Free event in the fall, featuring appearances from Kendall Coyne, Meghan Duggan, and other members of the U.S. Women’s National Team.
“It’s been wonderful to have the U.S. Women’s Olympic Team’s support,” Pentimone said. “Some of my friends are on that team [Duggan was team captain and a teammate of Pentimone’s at Wisconsin]. They’ve come out to a lot of events.”
Galvin says the Admirals have a strong presence in the community, helping out in soup kitchens and other organizations. Giving back to others is as much a part of a player’s development as success on the ice.
“Each team sets up their own [project] with their manager,” he explained. “We had sled hockey one year, and a couple of benefits for an assistant coach who needed some help with medical issues. That’s something I try to preach to the kids, to give back.”
The boys program features 13 teams from 8U to 14U. In the fall, Galvin hosts advancement clinics, dedicated to players looking for more ice time and development of their skills. The club also conducts goalie and checking clinics for older players. According to Galvin, individual skill development is perhaps the ADM’s greatest asset.
“I wish I’d had this when I was a kid growing up,” Galvin said. “Getting a lot of repetitions and touches is all a kid really wants.”
Give the kids what they want, along with the tools to develop, and they’re more likely to play hard and have fun.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.