It started with Roger Grillo, USA Hockey’s Massachusetts/New England District American Development Model manager encouraging Andover Hockey Association hockey directors Eddie and Kelly Hill to attend the North American Rink Conference and Expo in Columbus, Ohio.
The Hills immediately put together a presentation for the board of directors.
“Andover is a huge association [of 36 teams],” Eddie Hill said. “They asked us for help. Now the association has structure. Our practices have structure and meaning. It’s a guide we’re following made up by brilliant hockey minds."
“Fast forward four and five months out, our parents, coaches and players are seeing the benefits of [USA Hockey’s American Development Model] — specifically the structure of the ADM that we put in place.”
Of all the courses that were offered, the one that proved to be the most beneficial to the Hills was USA Hockey’s certification course.
“For me, personally, the experience in that course was one of the best experiences I’ve ever had,” Hill said. “For us to listen and learn from the most brilliant hockey kinds in our country … Kelly and I were sponges.
“The course itself and the presentation was so invigorating for us. We run camps in Massachusetts and this course was a breeding ground for information.”
The Hills also relished the opportunity to further educate themselves in long-term athlete development.
“From an association standpoint, what I wanted to bring back to Andover were the priorities for developing youth hockey players,” Hill said. “Fundamental skills are a huge piece for me. In addition, character development and life skills are huge in what we do as hockey directors and coaches.
“What we identify with in our program includes being a good teammate, citizen and family member. Hockey has good life skills built into it.”
Even though Hill already was cognizant of the ADM’s benefits, his belief was fortified after attending the NARCE conference.
“You implement the ADM or you don’t,” he said. “We chose to implement a world-leading program in the ADM.”
The ADM is of particular importance to the Hills because, in their positions with Andover, they conduct coaches meetings, create and distribute practice plans for the entire association, hold tryouts and placements and more.
“We observe games and see each team play twice a year,” Hill said. “We created a skill development progress report.
“Most importantly we run team practices which we call practice plusses. Two days a week, Kelly and I hold a three-team practice.”
The Hills also are involved in the annual Heseltine Tournament, which is a cross-ice 8U tournament held in November.
“What was amazing to me, personally, was watching our 8Us play and watching the small-area puck battles and watching how hard our kids were competing for the puck,” Hill said. “I was thrilled with the compete level of our kids.
“Then, at practice, I had the same group in a small area for a two-on-two game and saw the same thing. It really hit me that our 8U players are competing so hard for the puck.”
Because the Hills ensure that players are put in a game-like environment for practices, when it’s time to play games, what they’ve learned has become second nature.
“We have station-based practices where we take away time and space,” Hill said. “A lightning bolt went through me. I shouldn’t have been surprised, because Andover is a special place to be right now because we have an athlete-first approach.
“We now have structure for our program from 8U all the way up. We have every team and coach moving in the same direction.”
That direction ensures players will progress in their development instead of regressing or plateauing.
“Number one, with our practices, our approach has been from a coaching standpoint that they have become our games,” Hill said. “Our coaches bring excitement to our drills. The players feed on that. The coaches also bring knowledge. The coaches get the practices plans e-mailed to them.
“When it’s time for practice, we’re moving. Every second is accounted for.”
Hill firmly believes that structured practices combined with the ADM are of the utmost importance for younger players.
“Our young players are only young players for so many years,” he said. “If they don’t get those fundamental skills, they miss that window of opportunity to learn.
“It’s the same as basic reading skills in schools.”
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
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