When USA Hockey introduced the American Development Model in January 2009, Nassau County Hockey officials realized that the ADM’s goals already aligned closely with the Long Island-based association’s philosophy.
Embracing the age-appropriate guidelines proved to be an easy decision.
Five years later, Nassau County Hockey has become a leader in the ADM. And earlier this year, USA Hockey named Nassau County one of its official Model Associations.
Being designated a model program underscores the fact Nassau County Hockey is committed to providing age-appropriate, skill development-focused programming at the 8-and-under, 10-and-under and 12-and-under age groups. In addition, the association receives added support from USA Hockey to assist in implementing the ADM throughout the entire program.
“Skill development is extremely important for kids of all ages,” said Hockey Director Mark LaMarr, who’s also the New York State Director of Amateur Hockey. “Without skill development, kids won’t succeed and will drop out.”
For Nassau County Hockey, development starts with the basics.
“At the youngest levels, we try to teach the concept of skating first. Systems, etc. come over time,” LaMarr said. “In the beginning we deal more with skill development — skating, stick handling and passing. Without those, there’s no foundation. You can teach offside in a parking lot.”
One element of the ADM — cross-ice play for mites and small-area games — was hardly a new concept for Nassau County Hockey.
“We’ve been practicing the ADM philosophy of small-area games since about the middle 1980s,” LaMarr said. “We’ve always practiced this way. Being a municipality, our goal is to put as many kids on the ice as possible.”
As the players get older, the association continues emphasizing skill development through station-based drills and the recommended practice-to-game ratios for each age group.
“As an example, our squirt teams play 30 games and have 70 practices,” said LaMarr. “The ratio is a major component of our philosophy.”
The result of Nassau County’s commitment to ADM, LaMarr has found, is players and parents who actively embrace the ADM, too.
“They see how their hard work pays off in improving skills as they move up in the program,” LaMarr said. “They love it because there are more touches. When you put 40 kids on the ice at the same time, we have stations with 12 to 15 coaches on the ice. They’re getting instruction to increase their skill level.
“We try to keep our ratio to 5-to-1 [players to coaches]. Our volunteers are USA Hockey-trained. They’re all certified coaches, so kids get the proper technique and training.”
This season, Nassau County Hockey has 32 house and travel teams, from mini-mites through midgets. This number encompasses approximately 550 kids. LaMarr said he is particularly pleased with the number of young players joining the association.
In keeping up with the ADM philosophy, the association strives to ensure that players are truly enjoying their experience while also developing as players. As such, Nassau County does something that might be a bit unconventional: It gives its players a break during the holiday season instead of traveling to tournaments all over the East Coast.
“Ever since the advent of the ADM, over the holidays we give kids time away so they can enjoy the holiday,” LaMarr said. “This year, we’re giving kids 10 days off between Dec. 22 and Jan. 2.
“I’ve told them I don’t want to see them at the rink. We want them to enjoy their Christmas gifts and visit relatives.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.