The Brewins Youth Hockey Association is large and storied. Located in Bridgewater/Taunton, Massachusetts, the club currently has 20 teams and more than 300 players from all age levels.
As part of both the Metro South and South Shore Conferences, several Brewins teams have recently won league and state championships. Approximately 150 kids take part in the association’s learn-to-skate program. The club has also received numerous awards over the past decade, including Massachusetts Youth Hockey Program of the Year and two conference Program of the Year honors.
But it is more than a full trophy case that keeps families coming back to Brewins. Everyone from the board members to the coaches are committed to strong communication with players and parents, and they’re always looking for ways to take the program to the next level.
That commitment took another step forward with the recent decision by BYHA’s board to fully accept and implement USA Hockey’s American Development Model, which provides age-specific, age-appropriate skill development for players at all levels. While Brewins coaches have utilized some ADM concepts in their practices for several years, coach and board member Patrick Panaggio says he and many of the coaches attended numerous USA Hockey seminars that expanded their knowledge of ADM principles.
They not only saw the difference that USA Hockey’s ADM can make, but noticed fundamental deficiencies in the education kids in their program were receiving using the antiquated method of dump-and-chase and full-ice practices.
“It’s not for lack of effort on either the coaches’ part or the kids’ part,” explained Panaggio, who has been involved with the program the past eight years. “As a board, we’re always trying to find a better way, and that’s why we began to dive in to the ADM to see if there’s an opportunity for us to become better as an organization.”
Change isn’t easy for everyone, especially parents who invest time and money in their child’s hockey development. To address concerns some parents may have about the switch in philosophy, the Brewins enlisted the help of USA Hockey ADM regional manager and former Spencer Penrose National College Coach of the Year Finalist Roger Grillo. On November 1, Grillo delivered a presentation to parents and coaches showing empirical evidence of how the ADM works and why it’s successful.
“For a lot of parents, it’s a leap of faith,” Grillo said. “They want their kids to have success and get better. The ADM is different than what some of them have seen. It’s not scoreboard focused, it’s individual-skill focused. Sometimes, there’s a little anxiety for parents, so I think it’s incumbent on us to help alleviate some of that stress.”
Studies show that one well-run ADM practice provides the skill development equivalent of 11 games. Such practices are more efficient for skill development than games, where players have far fewer puck touches and skill development repetitions.
“If we can educate the parents and coaches [that] this is actually going to help, I think it will put some of those fears and reservations at ease,” Panaggio said. “We don’t want this to be something we’re shoving down people’s throats.”
Along with the noticeable benefits of more reps, station-based practices and an emphasis on individual development, the ADM offers other advantages that go beyond results on the ice. Bryan Goodwin, whose son, Cameron, plays for one of the 8U teams, says having fun is a concept often overlooked in traditional teaching methods. Goodwin, who just began coaching Cameron’s team this season, grew up in Massachusetts playing youth, high school and junior hockey. He also played in college at NCAA Division III Salve Regina in Newport, Rhode Island.
“The ADM really focuses on having fun,” said Goodwin, an elementary special education teacher. “It’s really important for the kids to come to the rink and have fun. Thinking back to my personal experiences, I couldn’t tell you any drills that we did, but I remember at the end of every practice, we played Sharks and Minnows. That was the fun part. I think [that’s what] we as a program should be implementing. At the same time, they’re learning a lot of great skills, and they don’t even realize it.”
The Brewins plan to implement the ADM progressively, starting at the 8U level. Panaggio is confident his club will continue to succeed long-term using these new concepts.
“As we gain success, as we see improvement, the buy-in will be easier, and we can implement more towards the older ages,” he explained.
Story from Red Line Editorial, Inc.
Photo courtesy of Brittney Toth.