The hockey tradition is strong in South St. Paul. Just ask United States Olympians Phil Housley and Justin Faulk.
So when the South St. Paul Youth Hockey Association embraced the player development ideas within USA Hockey’s American Development Model, there was understandably some local hesitation about the changes.
The Minnesota association has moved to change those perceptions.
One example can be found on the South St. Paul website. A video is posted with the title “From a child’s point of view, parents find full-ice hockey is no fun.”
The video demonstrates how a full sheet of ice looks (and plays) for a child. USA Hockey put adult players on an extra-large rink with giant nets to simulate what a child sees. The players found the games tiring, difficult and said they would lose interest quickly in the sport if that was what they faced.
“A lot of the reaction I’ve heard back from that video hasn’t been so much from parents of young boys but from grandparents who looked at this new system and were skeptical,” said Ben McClellan, who’s in his first season as the association’s ADM Director. “They didn’t realize kids pick up bad habits and that one kid can dominate a game. That opened their eyes.
“I have a mite-age son [Jack]. My dad [Michael] and I have gone around and around on it, but my dad’s starting to see the benefits of the new style.”
The coaches and kids within the program came around much more quickly.
“In old-style practices, there’s a lot of standing around,” McClellan said. “The more standing around there is, the more bored the boys get. The ADM style doesn’t allow that. And they’re always working on something different, like their edges or cross-overs or skating with the puck.
“We always like to have a fun game, so we’re giving them a break from constant structure. We want to get kids hooked right away by having fun.”
That’s another reason why, according to McClellan, the association’s mite registrations have increased in recent years: South St. Paul’s mite practices are taken straight from the ADM with minimal “tinkering.”
Once players graduate to squirts, 90 percent of their practices are station-based with multiple teams on the ice.
“I’ve encouraged our coaches to look at what the ADM gives us in terms of touches per player and use the philosophy of keeping kids active,” McClellan said. “Break the ice in half and focus on different elements of the game that you want to work on that day.”
McClellan commenced coaching in the association four years ago and, admittedly, wasn’t familiar with the ADM guidelines. But his eyes were opened during his second year when a team he was coaching participated in a 3-on-3 league.
“I saw the lack of skills we were teaching our kids,” McClellan said. “When we started working on those skills later on, we realized there were things they should have been taught years ago. They understood skill level was important rather than having to be here at a certain place on the ice at a certain time.
“It was more of a team realization.”
Dan Schaefer, who coaches both a Squirt C and an 8U team, realized the benefits of the ADM by watching his son play on that Squirt C team.
“My son’s never known anything different,” Schaefer said. “He judged whether he had a good practice if his hair was wet. The good thing about the ADM is it keeps everybody moving. As a parent-coach, I love the ADM.”
McClellan started coaching mites in 2010. At the time, the association was having difficulty encouraging kids to try out for the various teams — one reason being sports such as football and wrestling did a better job of demonstrating how kids could have fun.
“We had the old-school mentality,” McClellan said. “Then, we had try-hockey-for-free days where we showed you can have fun while skating, plus you don’t have to skate down a full sheet of ice.”
That approach enticed more boys to try hockey with the South St. Paul Youth Association.
Schaefer, meanwhile, also coached high school hockey at one time and noticed that too many boys were standing around listening to the coach and doing nothing.
“The ADM has fixed that,” Schaefer said. “When I took my advanced coaching certificate in 2002, [USA Hockey Regional Manager for ADM] Roger Grillo gave a presentation on cross-ice games. That made us ask ourselves, ‘How do we get the youth guys involved in it?’
“I tell detractors that the ADM is a blueprint and not a dictate. You can take two or three drills and customize them to your needs.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
The Referee Section of USA Hockey recently met during Annual Congress and discussed a variety of issues that will have an impact in the success of the officiating program. Many of those issues relate back to the successful completion of the registration requirements and the retention of officials.
Streamlining the registration process and maximizing the efficiency of our educational platforms are always a priority and the following Q-and-A will highlight those changes that every official should be aware of heading into the new season.
USA Hockey: What is the biggest change made to the registration requirements for this season?
Matt Leaf: With more and more seminars transitioning to a virtual format, the Referees-in-Chief (RIC) have determined that there really is no need for the closed book exams. So, level 2, 3 and 4 officials this season will no longer be required to submit a closed book (or modified online closed book exam) upon completion of the seminar requirement. Instead, the open book exams have been expanded to 75 questions for level 2 and 100 questions each for level 3 and level 4.
The RICs acknowledged that the purpose of the exams has always been as a means to encourage rule knowledge, so more effort was made to put together open book exam questions that will encourage the officials to open the Rules/Casebook in an effort to not only learn the rule, but more importantly, understand the spirit and intent of the rule.
USAH: Are there any other changes to the exam process
ML: The only other change to the exams deal with those who do not pass the original exam. Level 2, 3 and 4 officials will now be able to complete their retake exam 24 hours after failing their original exam. Level 1 officials will still need to wait seven days as we want them to slow down and take some time reviewing the rules so they can gain a better understanding and improve their chances for success on the ice.
USAH: What changes, if any, have been made to the seminars? Are all officials still required to attend a seminar each season?
ML: Yes, except for Tenured Officials, all officials are required to attend a seminar for the level that they apply for each season. So, a Level 1 official must attend a Level 1 seminar, Level 2 attends a Level 2 and then Level 3 and 4 seminars will be combined as one seminar in many cases.
Level 1 officials are strongly encouraged to attend a seminar in their own area and most areas will mainly conduct in-person Level 1 seminars. Although there will be some hybrid Level 1 seminars with both a virtual and in-person component, the key here is that every Level 1 official is required to attend a Level 1 seminar ice session. This may require some additional coordination of scheduling for these new officials, but the reality is this on-ice practice is so critical to any future success they may have on the ice that the RICs feel it is critical that the ice session is part of their educational experience.
Level 2 seminars will also include an on-ice component that Level 2 officials need to be aware of when they plan their seminar attendance. The vast majority of Level 3 and Level 4 seminars will be virtual and officials are encouraged to attend a seminar at a date and time that is convenient for them.
USAH: Have there been any changes to the curriculum for the various levels?
ML: The curriculum for each level was standardized prior to last season and is something that will continue to be updated on an annual basis. The specific presentations, along with the video examples, have all been developed in a manner that provides valuable information specific to each level with new presentations and updated video examples being used to keep things fresh and relevant. In addition, the seminar curriculum has been coordinated with the online modules to minimize duplication and to diversify the required education for each level.
USAH: How about SafeSport and Screening – any changes to those requirements?
ML: The background screening process will remain the same as USA Hockey is required to conduct a national screen every two years on any official who is 18 years of age as of June 1 of the registration year (in this case 2022). Both the background screen and the SafeSport training are mandated by the United States Olympic and Paralympic Committee (USOPC) per the Amateur Sports Act initiated by Congress.
For SafeSport, any official who was born in 2005, or earlier, is required to complete SafeSport training on a yearly basis. This may include the full training or refresher training that is managed by the US Center for SafeSport. Although it will not have an impact on registration for this season, there was a change in SafeSport that has been made where the training will only be valid for a 12-month period of time and it not consistent with an overlapping season. This will be addressed during the summer of 2023.
USAH: Are there any other changes or areas of emphasis that you want officials to be aware of?
ML: A significant part of the discussions that took place with the RICs focused on the importance mentoring plays in the success and, ultimately, the retention of brand-new officials. USA Hockey loses 50% of our new officials every season and improving that retention rate by just 15% will result in 1,000 additional experienced officials joining our ranks each year. We need to do a better job of bringing new officials into the fold and then supporting them in ways that sets them up for a successful and rewarding experience. The RICs feel strongly the best way to positively impact this issue is through mentoring.
Experienced officials should expect to receive information later this summer that outlines expectations of a formal Mentor Program and asking them to volunteer their time and expertise to become involved as a mentor. Once we have established a pool of officials that are willing to contribute in this way to the next generation of officials, they will be assigned a group of new officials they can reach out to and guide them through the registration process, seminar attendance, assistance in completing the open book exam and reaching out to prospective assignors when the time has come they are ready to work games. Once they have stepped on the ice, that mentor can continue to be a valuable resource for the new official and provide the necessary support needed to be successful. We will also be encouraging local clubs, assignors and officials’ groups to implement Shadow Programs that will complement the Mentor Program and positively enhance the officials’ experience even more.
With everyone working together towards a common goal, USA Hockey can become a leader in addressing the officiating crisis while providing a positive experience to our next generation of officials.