ADM: What is Our Objective?

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ADM: What is Our Objective?

I have been thinking about this series of posts for almost four years now. The reason it has taken me this long to write it, is that I wanted to be sure I understood my own position, and that I could properly articulate why I felt the way I did. I also wanted to see if my intuition turned out to be right, or if I’d be proven wrong over a few years.

This will be the first in a series of articles about the ADM program. If you’re not familiar with ADM, it stands for American Development Model. In USA Hockey’s own words:

“The ADM is USA Hockey’s nationwide player-development program for youth hockey associations. It’s based on age-appropriate, age-specific competition and training for boys and girls, beginning with their first steps onto the ice and carrying them through age 18 and beyond. The ADM places a heightened emphasis on skill development and long-term athlete development principles, providing a blueprint for the best possible youth hockey experience. Put simply, it’s doing what’s best for kids.”

ADM One Sheet Document PDF

Sounds great, right? Who wouldn’t want the things listed in the above statement? The problem is, there are a lot of things about ADM that sound great on paper, but that do not translate well when put into action. This series will dive deep into these short-comings, with the hopes of sparking some debate, and encouraging better coaching, better programming, and better development for our youngsters.

This article’s main purpose is to ask the question “What is Our Objective?” The next articles will address the following topics:

“Textbook” vs “Local” Implementation

Before I go any further with this, I would like to draw a distinction between what I call “textbook” and “local” ADM implementation.

I have had a number of discussions with folks who argue in favor of ADM, but then when I bring up certain aspects of the program I have problems with, they say “well ya, we don’t do that part of it in our local program.” To which I say “then you aren’t really running ADM…”

For example, I was discussing ADM with a parent who was a big fan of the program. I said “One of the things I have problems with is that ADM discourages “travel” or “elite” teams until age 13, so what are we supposed to do with our elite athletes until then?” The parent said “well in my area those top kids go to ‘such-and-such’ team, and they play against the other top teams. But they all run ADM too, and are having a great time with it.”

Apparently the message isn’t being made clear. If your program is running something contrary to ADM’s guidelines, then they aren’t really running ADM. Maybe they’re running bits and pieces of ADM, but according to the literature (which you can download below), their program is not fully in line with ADM’s recommendations:

ADM GUIDE 2011 PDF

My opinions in this series of articles are based on the idea of a TEXTBOOK implementation of ADM. Meaning, let’s theoretically take your youngster from Mite through Junior, following the ADM recommendations to a T, and pick apart what works and what doesn’t. After all… USA Hockey claims to have finally developed “a program that will provide a better future for all. All ages. All talent levels. All organizations. All of hockey.” (ADM Guide, 2011, page 1)

Is a “one-size-fits-ALL” model really possible? Let’s put it to the test and see!

What is Our Objective?

The first question that needs to be addressed is “What is Our Objective?” What is USA Hockey attempting to accomplish with the ADM program?

  • Is the goal to have more success on the world stage? (i.e. More NHL’ers, World Championships, World Junior Championships, Olympic Medals, etc.)
  • Is the goal to keep more kids playing hockey for longer?
  • Or is the goal something completely different?

I think it goes without saying (but I’ll say it anyways) that each of these objectives requires a VERY different course of action, even from a young age. I don’t see a “textbook” implementation of ADM producing greatness in world competition. However, I do see it potentially keeping more kids playing hockey for longer––at a lukewarm level of skill and commitment.

USA Hockey is very concerned with drop out, which is great. However, I feel ADM’s recommendations often work to the detriment of the more talented players, who are capable of more, and who WANT more. An example of this is the discouragement of select & travel teams until age 13. Here’s a quote from the ADM Guide 2011 pamphlet:

“Once a player has reached the Bantam level, he or she can take part in an accelerated track. This track is designed to get them more ice time, which means more time can be devoted to specific skill development. It is a more rigorous track, but it is also one that provides talented skaters with more opportunity to hone their craft.”

In a TEXTBOOK implementation of ADM, the path is essentially the same for every player UNTIL Bantam.

There are a number of problems with this (assuming you’re looking to produce high-quality players), but here’s the biggest one in my mind:

Hockey has a very young life span, and the ADM wastes early years by handcuffing development for the top-level kids, in the name of keeping a “level playing field” to allow late bloomers to stay in the game longer.

It doesn’t really matter that the science says male athletes don’t reach their physical peak until age 23. The NHL draft is age 18. The World Juniors are U20. The Major Junior drafts are 14-15. Which means you have to be functioning at a HIGH level by Bantam… not just getting started on the “accelerated track.”

Your average player begins hockey around age 5. If our goal is excellence on the world stage, or more NHL’ers from the USA, that means we have roughly 10 years to get a kid capable of being drafted major junior. If they’re not major junior material by the time they’re draft eligible, they’re probably not going to be World Junior or NHL material either. So the race is to age 15 in my mind.

Now, if a player isn’t major junior material by age 15, does that mean all is lost? Heavens no! There’s still college, Tier II Junior A, etc. And from there, a few of the “late bloomers” still find their way to the show.

You might say, “well ya… but realistically, how many of these kids will go to the show?” That’s a very true point. The percentage is miniscule. But does that mean we CATER to the lower-end athletes, or to the lower-end goal? I say we should still treat every player’s development as if he or she is “NHL Material,” and let him or her progress at the fastest pace they’re capable of progressing. The better kids can progress in the better leagues, while the kids who aren’t quite ready yet can keep progressing at lower-level leagues.

Big Market vs Small Market Debate

One of USA Hockey’s selling points for the ADM program centers around the question of “What are the small-market countries doing to produce ‘so many’ NHL’ers per per capita?” USA Hockey supposedly studied the training methodologies of these small-market countries, then pieced various aspects of their programs together to form ADM.

Before moving forward, let me be clear on one thing: I LOVE THE IDEA OF LEARNING FROM OTHER PROGRAMS. In fact, I believe you can learn something from just about ANY coach if you’re truly a student of the game. I have picked up countless drills and techniques from my European colleagues, and it has truly enhanced my coaching game.

However, I think USA Hockey has missed the mark on this question. When you divide the world into regions, making each Canadian Province and American State a region, and each European country a region, we realize that Saskatchewan is producing nearly double the NHL’ers per capita as the next best region, which is Manitoba (talk about small markets!), and 9 TIMES more NHL’ers per capita than the top European country, which is Sweden. So why are we so enchanted by the European methodologies?

NHL'ers Per Capita with 5+ Players

NHL’ers Per Capita: Regions with 5 or More NHL Players. Stats from http://www.quanthockey.com/

Do the Europeans produce good players? Yes! Can we learn from them? Yes! But there are two points I think we’re overlooking:

  1. USA is not a “small-market” country. We have the second highest number of U20 participants in the world, second only to Canada (see 2014 IIHF survey stats here). As a large market country, we have training advantages many other countries lack. We should use them.
  2. Canada and Russia/USSR are by far the most dominant countries on the world scene. If we’re going to borrow from other countries, why not pattern our development models after theirs?

I know some folks will be saying to themselves “Yes, but per capita isn’t fair, because Canada has many more PLAYERS per capita, so it skews the numbers.” This is true, but isn’t “growing the game” one of our objectives in the first place? Growing the game should be, and is, part of the development model.

The real question should be how has Canada been able to have such a high volume of participants in the sport for so many years? Personal experience tells me it hasn’t been by limiting opportunities for the elite players to play top-caliber hockey. We must make hockey a bigger part of the American culture, and this is done by striving for excellence, and catering to the development of the elite athletes. As the saying goes, “high tide raises all ships.”

Moving Forward

We’ll dive much deeper into these topics in the next few articles, but the main takeaways for this first article are as follows:

  • USA Hockey needs to clarify it’s objective for the ADM.
  • ADM administered in textbook fashion will not produce the type of elite players USA needs to be competitive in world competition
  • If the objective is to be more competitive on the world scene, then changes need to be made to the ADM
  • If the objective is to maintain a larger number of lukewarm participants for a longer number of years, then the current program will do just that (although you’ll have a lot of frustrated elite players, along with their parents)
  • If you want to be the best at something, model your programming after the BEST countries, not the 3rd or 4th in line. Canada and Russia have each finished in the top 3 in the World Junior Championships 18 times since 1995. Sweden is next best with 8. (Click here for U20 medal counts)

As you’ll see in the subsequent articles, there are many aspects of ADM that sound good on paper, but that just don’t work when put into practice. The closer a program gets to “textbook” ADM, the less sense it makes when you see it in action.

The 3 Areas of Hockey Dominance




Improve your Physical Skills, Mental Skills, and Physical Conditioning to Dominate your Opponent!

In this post I’m going to discuss what I call the 3 AREAS OF HOCKEY DOMINANCE… now I know that title sounds a little dramatic, but the reality is, if you implement the information I’m about to share with you into your hockey development strategy, you will be miles ahead of your opponent, EVERY TIME YOU STEP ON THE ICE!

This video will be equally beneficial for both players, coaches, and even parents who want to be on-board with their players’ development. So, let’s go ahead and get started!

3_areas_of_hockey_dominanceThe 3 Areas of Hockey Dominance
The 3 Areas of Hockey Dominance are Physical Skills, Mental Skills, and Physical Conditioning. Now we can break each of these areas down into sub-categories, and get very specific, which we will, but at the end of the day, the best players at ANY age group (that’s correct, I said ANY age group), will be the ones who perform the best in each of these 3 areas… neglect even one of these areas, and we’re giving our opponent the opportunity to gain an advantage over US!

Physical Skills
We all know hockey is an extremely dynamic game… there is so much going on at so many different levels of cognition… our strategy will be to systematically eliminate as much THINKING as possible on the PHYSICAL and TACTICAL aspects of the game, so that our players’ brains can free to function at higher levels during game play. I know that might sound a little confusing, so let me give a quick example:

There are three key components that go into an effective skating stride:

  1. Proper knee bend
  2. Correct pushing angle – which is to the side at about a 45 degree angle
  3. Full extension (including the toe-snap) with a full recoil back to the starting position

Well… that’s a lot to think about! If a player had to worry about all that on the ice, the likelihood of he or she to be able to read, anticipate, and react at any level of proficiency would be extremely LOW!

So, we need to teach and reinforce proper technical skills until they become second nature. Our players should execute the three elements of a skating stride properly, every single stride, of every single game, without ever having to think about whether or not they’re doing it properly!

Now obviously, skating isn’t the only physical skill that players need to be able to perform in their sleep. A few years ago I put myself through an interesting thought exercise. I wanted to map out ALL of the skills a hockey player needed to be able to perform. So I sat down and wrote out every single variation of every single skill in hockey I could think of. I might have missed a few, but I think I got most of it.

I knew the list would be big… but I was surprised by HOW big it really was! Here’s what I came up with:

Skating Skills

  • Forward Skating in a Straight Line
  • Inside Edges
  • Outside Edges
  • Forward Crossovers
  • 5-Step Crossovers for Drive Skating
  • V-Starts, Crossover Starts
  • 2-Foot Stop, Inside Edge Stop
  • Outside Edge Stop
  • Crossover Stop
  • Backward C-Cuts
  • Backward Cross-Unders
  • Backward 3-Step Cross-Unders for Drag Skating
  • Pivots – Forward to Backward to the left side and to the right
  • Pivots – Backward to Forward to the left side and to the right
  • Inside Reverse Pivots both directions
  • Inside Mohawks both directions
  • Power Turns both directions

That’s just skating! At some point you’ve gotta put a puck on your stick, and hopefully be able to execute the following, WHILE maintaining proper skating technique on everything we just mentioned:

Puck Skills

  • Stationary Stickhandling (to the Left Side, Right Side, and Center of Body)
  • Toe Drag
  • Deking
  • Puck Protection & Body Positioning
  • Puck Control While Skating

Passing

  • Cushion Puck While Receiving & Sweep While Delivering
  • Touch Passes
  • Drop Passes
  • Saucer Passes
  • Bank Passes
  • Chip Passes for Breakouts
  • Backhand Passes

If everything got as planned… hopefully you get a chance at a shot on net. SO… you’d better have a solid shot selection to choose from!

Shooting

  • Wrist Shot
  • Snap Shot
  • Slap Shot
  • One-Timer
  • Deflections
  • Backhanders
  • Flip Shot for Dump-ins

Now obviously it takes YEARS to become 100% proficient at all of these skills… but that’s all the more reason to begin implementing these training methods AS SOON AS POSSIBLE. Structured training sessions are key to making this happen, and it can, and should be done at even the YOUNGEST age groups!

Get Skills “Out of the Way”
As I mentioned earlier, our objective is to get our players to become SO well-skilled, that we can psychologically “get skills out of the way” so to speak, opening up mental real-estate for the more complex aspects of the game. This development strategy will allow our players to think the game more quickly and clearly than the opponent.

So… what are the MENTAL SKILLS that we should be teaching our players? well, I’m glad you asked! The same day I penciled out all the physical skills of the game, I also went through and mapped out all the MENTAL aspects of the game, which include both tactical skills and positional, or situational, understanding.

Defensive Tactics

  • Gap Control
  • Force vs. Contain strategy
  • Angling
  • Checking
  • Pinning
  • 1 on 1’s, 2 on 1’s, 2 on 2’s, 3 on 2’s
  • Defensive Support

Offensive Tactics

  • Triangulation
  • Cycling
  • Front and Backside Support
  • Delays
  • Give and Go’s
  • Angling and Body Positioning on Forecheck

Neutral Zone Tactics

  • Area Passing
  • Timing
  • Neutral Zone Support
  • Backchecking (which sort of happens in any of the 3 zones, depending on where the turnover occurred)

defensive_zone_coveragePositioning
Continuing along on the mental skills side of the equation, we progress into POSITIONING. The objective with positioning is not only to BE in the right place at the right time, but our players must be capable of DOING the right thing, while in the right place, at the right time, or in other words, applying the proper TACTIC while in the proper POSITION.

For example, let’s say the other team has the puck in the corner, and we’re in the defensive zone… it’s great if our strong side defenseman is near the puck-carrier, in proper position, and ready to make a play, but if he FORCES when he should have CONTAINED… that’s a huge problem. Our players need to be able to read and react both positionally, AND tactically, in order to execute at the highest level.

hockey_tacticsTactical Play can Become Instinctive too
Now, in case you haven’t noticed… many of the tactical skills can also be developed to the point where they become INSTINCTIVE, meaning, players don’t have to THINK about them anymore… just like our objective with physical skills, we want to develop these mental, tactical skills to the point where our players no longer have to think about how to react.

Continuing with our example… The decision of whether to force or contain when the other team has the puck in the defensive corner can be made LONG before our defenseman steps on the ice. Our players should be able to simply RECOGNIZE the ques because they’ve been there a million times in practice, and then react correctly WITHOUT HAVING TO MAKE A CONSCIOUS DECISION EVERY SINGLE TIME!

Once a player gets to the point where he or she is no longer THINKING about the Physical and Tactical skills of the game, but acting and reacting instinctively, the game SLOWS down for the player, and his or her effectiveness increases!

Physical Conditioning
Developing a player’s physical and mental skills is obviously EXTREMELY important… but it’s flat out NOT ENOUGH, if we truly want our players to reach their highest and best.

Our third area of hockey dominance is the one that is most often over-looked… PHYSICAL CONDITIONING. Let me start by saying that ANYTIME you hear about something that is commonly overlooked, your ears should perk up, because that means there’s an area where you can gain an ADVANTAGE over your opponent… well, THIS is one of those areas!

Without getting into a whole bunch of “Jeremy Weiss personal history,” let me just say this… I’ve played some fairly decent hockey in my day, with some fairly decent players… including quite a few who are in the NHL now. Even at high levels of play, including Jr “A” in the Ontario Provincial League, and College Hockey, I was always surprised at how FEW players got to the weight room with ANY level of consistency! There is a HUGE advantage to be gained by the player who consistently executes a top-notch, hockey-specific, conditioning program both in the off-season, as well as the in-season.

Intrinsic Factors
Developing our strength and conditioning will not only help us to physically out-muscle our opponent, and go harder for longer without getting as tired… but there are many intrinsic benefits as well that play a huge role on the ice. Some of these include confidence, leadership, motor coordination, and a whole host of others.

Weiss Tech Hockey is associated with a few high-quality, hockey-specific, off-ice training programs that we use and recommend. You can check them out here:

Everything is Interlaced
So those are the three areas of hockey dominance. The interesting thing about implementing this development strategy is that each of these skills play into each other, and as one improves, it brings aspects of the other two up with it. For example, as a player’s leg and core strength develops because of his or her OFF-ICE CONDITIONING PROGRAM, he or she is able to execute and hold a better knee bend, which results in an improved skating stride – a PHYSICAL SKILL, this improves the player’s ability to maintain better gap control on a 1 on 1, which is a MENTAL & TACTICAL SKILL… You see… it’s ALL INTERLACED! The trick as a coach is to get the ball rolling, and provide the type of learning environment where progress can be made skill upon skill, concept upon concept.

A Huge Thanks!
I just wanted to take a minute and say thanks for checking out this post, and thank you for participating on our drills and skills blog. If this post has been helpful to you as a player, coach, or parent, please feel free to continue to spread the word to your hockey friends, teammates, and associates… we sure appreciate it!

Jeremy




The Hockey Development Pyramid is a great tool to help design your season’s “Road Map”

Before the season begins, it’s a good idea to take inventory of your team’s strengths and weaknesses. I use the Hockey Development Pyramid as a tool to help gather my thoughts, and determine what areas of play should be focused on over the course of the season.

Skills within various tiers of the pyramid can be developed simultaneously (i.e. puckhandling and passing can be developed during a breakout drill). However, it is EXTREMELY important to build from the bottom up, not from the top down. Players who have not developed a solid foundation of Individual and Team Skills will never be as effective at performing the higher-level skills such as Team Systems and Strategy.

ENJOY!