The way in which we engage kids and teach sports has powerful implications on their long term success on and off the ice. The Long Term Player Development Model was written by Hockey Canada as a roadmap for skill development and continues to evolve so every athlete is given a meaningful, enjoyable experience.
This model for hockey has been developed based on the following principles:
• doing the right thing for the player at the right stage in their development
• adopting a player-centered approach and not treating the development of all players the same way
• the broader the foundation of players the more successful the game of hockey will be in Canada
• viewing player development as a long term process
• aligning player development resources (skills manuals, DVDs) with coach development and education resources so that coaches are doing the right things at the right time
• a need to better educate parents on the hockey development of their child – it is okay for parents to want their kids to get to the highest levels but they need to know the best way to go about it
There are many basic skills necessary to teach on the ice at an entry level. It can be tougher to create a list on what’s involved in developing off-ice attributes as they are intangible and are often based on how much time and dedication a player puts into it.
That mental aspect of the game can push players to better themselves and grow their skillset. The most important skill to teach might not even be one that takes place on the ice.
“The ability to self-reflect,” said Peter McBride, assistant coach with the University of Toronto men’s hockey team and the coach mentor for Newmarket Minor Hockey Association. “To tell yourself that you need to improve or tell yourself what you’re doing wrong in a skill that doesn’t allow you to have the success that you need.”
Players should be confident and comfortable in their repetitions and be prepared for when it happens in a game. What was once an unfamiliar skill has now turned into a routine. It is crucial for coaches to be able to identify and correct a skill that is being performed wrongly before a player gets locked into repeating incorrect habits. They should ensure that players are confident with basic skills before moving on to more complex patterns and tactics. Of course, there is no harm in circling back and reinforcing fundamental skills from time to time when needed.
Today’s coaches can get overwhelmed in dealing with parents, policies and practice plans all in a limited amount of ice time. Trying to fit in the Long Term Player Development Model presents another challenge but is a guideline for coaches on the progress of their players.
“Sometimes it takes a back seat. I think with the documentation, with it always being brought to the forefront by associations, it really can be beneficial because it allows the coaches to go back and reflect on what should a seven or eight-year-old person be doing? What should they be capable of? Both from a chronological point of view and also from a biological and psychological point of view.”
Coaches can show parents what the Model is and map what abilities players have at each age group. They can let parents know how they are using it to help prepare players better for skill learning in the future.
“I think we also need to have parents more aware of what Long Term Athlete Development is and understand that it’s not a race. It’s kind of a journey for the athlete, coaches and for all people involved. That athletic development, we need to ensure that the kids have the proper skill to get to the next phase of tactics or team play or strategy.”