There are two types of youth hockey players: kids who truly love and are passionate about the game and kids who are just playing it for fun or maybe because they’re being forced to. It’s the kids in that first group- the ones who love the sport with all they’ve got- who are often the most gifted and the most in need of nurturing. These are the kids who will pick up a stick and pull on their skates anytime they have a spare minute, the kids who get together with their friends for a game of pick-up hockey, and who work on perfecting skills long after practice has ended for everyone else.
While all kids can benefit from specialized coaching, it’s especially important for these passionate young players. The right coaching at the right time can ensure that they never lose that drive or that thirst for hockey that they currently possess. Experts in the sports education field believe that, for training to be as effective as possible, it has to be delivered at a calculated, gradual pace.
That’s why many coaches stand by and use the Long-Term Athlete Development Model, a training model that incorporates specific training, intensity, and competition goals and lessons to be delivered at set times. The model consists of seven stages, all designed to help youth athletes gain the skills and knowledge they need in a steady, controlled way to have maximum long-term benefits for them.
The first stage of the model is known as “Active Start” and is for children up to age six. This stage, along with stage 2- “FUNdamentals” and stage 3- “Learn to Train,” is all about helping players to begin building physical and mental skills necessary for being a success at the sport of their choice. The next three stages, which start for girls who are 11 and boys who are 12, are all about real training and picking a sport specialization. Winning is not focused on until near the end of the stages since the goal is to create good athletes, not necessarily ones who win all the time or who base their worth on the outcome of a competition. With that said, however, players who have successfully passed through all these stages are more likely to win more often than those who haven’t.
The seventh and final stage of the model is Stage 7- the “Active for Life” stage, which focuses on encouraging people of all ages to continue their involvement in sports. Whether professionally or just for fun, the idea is to keep people active and to have them continue enjoying sports and all that they can still stand to gain from being a part of them.
This model creates people who love their sports for life, so it’s a great strategy to use with all of your players, but especially those who already have that passion and special spark for the sport.