When he came on board, Brooks Millar found that not everyone in the Grand Traverse Hockey Association fully understood USA Hockey’s American Development Model.
Shortsightedness gnawed at the edges. Some parents didn’t immediately embrace see the value idea ofin age-appropriate, age-specific programming, practicing in smaller ice areas and providing youth players with more efficient skill development.
But Millar persisted. Promoting the science- and play-proven benefits, he witnessed the sentiment shift to a more long-term development mindset. That process picked up steam with the support of Dallas Drake, a former Northern Michigan University star, NHL standout and Stanley Cup champion with the Detroit Red Wings.
“I talked about the child-development research and findings, but I also pointed to Dallas,” Millar said. “‘Look at this guy. He played a thousand games in the NHL, and he thinks this is the ADM is the smartest thing.’ That made the transition easier.”
Drake, one of a swelling number of ADM advocates with college and professional playing experience, had settled into Traverse City, Michigan, with his family after he retired from the NHL in 2008. His kids were playing hockey, and he decided to get involved in the Grand Traverse Hockey Association.
Drake had become familiar with the ADM around that time and thought it was the exact model children needed to reach their full long-term potential as athletes. He put it to use right away as a coach.
“The big part for me is that I liked the small-area game and stations,” Drake said. “You can really isolate what you want to do with them and really focus your teaching. I agree with everything about it for teaching young kids.
“I think the biggest thing for parents to buy into is that we have to focus not on what their kids will look like today, but how much better they’re going to get five to ten years from now.”
It’s all about a shift in values, one that strives to help kids reach their full, sustained long-term potential rather than chase fleeting 12U stardom.
Patience is something Drake and Millar have preached to the players and parents. With time, everyone is witnessing the importance of that, because systems can help young kids game their youthful opponents in the short term, but skills win out in the long run.
“I can tell you our kids are often more skilled at the game of hockey than the kids we’re playing against,” said Millar.. “And we’re excited to see what happens in the second half of the year, as they catch up to the game they’ve been learning.”
Already the benefits are beginning to show. Not only are the youngest players showing skills beyond their years, the older age groups are shining, too. Grand Traverse teams won 14U and 12U Silver Sticks tournaments earlier this season and the association’s 12U house teams claimed first, second and third place among 13 teams competing at the GTHA Pee Wee B House Tournament.
One of USA Hockey’s newest Model Associations, Grand The Grand Traverse Hockey Association implementes the ADM throughout its association, with support from USA Hockey ADM regional manager Bob Mancini, a former Edmonton Oilers development coach and Michigan Tech head coach. . The benefits are readily being apparent, and the future has Millar excited.
“We’re Our bantam North Stars, with Mike Matteucci coaching, play down in Detroit and they’re something like 20-7 with a couple tournament titles to their credit,” Millar said. “We’re a city of barely 80,000, playing with our own home-grown kids, and Detroit is bringing in players from everywhere.
“Most of all though, I’m excited that we’re going to have more kids coming out of Traverse City loving the game and staying with it. That’s the No. 1 goal for me. I think we’ll have more kids come out of Traverse City who will have the opportunity to go other places. When I grew up here, no one came out of here. Now we have a bunch of [NCAA] Division I players.”
That has also been gratifying for Drake. More than anything, though, he’s glad to be teaching the game and having kids enjoy it.
“Hockey gave me everything I have, and I wanted to give back,” Drake said. “I love watching kids have fun on the ice. When they’re on the ice at first and stumbling around, nothing’s more enjoyable than that. When you see those kids get better every year, it’s fun to see them grow and get bigger and enjoy the game. Hockey is one of those games you can play when you’re 60 years old. You can’t say that about every sport. That’s fun.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc