Now Is Not The Time To Abandon The ADM

Matt Goudy

As a proponent of the American Development Model, I was disappointed last summer when my area league failed to adopt the cross- or half-ice format for Mites.

Like any paradigm shift, there will be resistance on the part of the establishment. In this case, coaches, rinks, leagues and state associations have to assess where, when and how to implement these changes.

USA Hockey has done virtually all they could do to educate the entire community on the indisputable benefits of the ADM. Without support on the grass-roots level, this change will take longer than necessary, and our future players will suffer for it.

So, what is a coach to do when forced to play Mites in a full-ice format? In our case, my assistants and I chose to stick to the guidelines of the ADM. We established with our parents that our game record was irrelevant to our goals for the season. Naturally, there were questions and concerns.

Going into the season, our team was already one of the youngest, smallest and definitely the least experienced with the full-ice format. We decided to acknowledge our underdog role and everyone – from the players to the parents and siblings – embraced it.

So, we embarked on our season focusing on the ABC’S (Agility, Balance, Coordination & Speed), encouraging legal body contact through small area games and letting the ice be the teacher. Our practices often look very different from some of the teams with whom we share the ice. One-on-one battles, obstacle courses and soccer games prevail over lines, practicing set plays and passing drills (no Mite likes these).

The one exception we have made, in the interest of the full-ice games, was to teach offsides. This is incorporated into virtually every practice as one of our stations.

You see, what we lacked in full-ice experience, we made up for with a full year of ADM “Minor Mite” experience for most of our team. When we showed up for our first game of the season some parents from the opposing team asked, “Are you guys a Mite team, or Minor Mite?” We walked out of the rink with a 5-2 win and comments from those same parents of, “Boy, your guys can really skate!”

By sticking to the guidelines set forth by USA Hockey, our young players are able to incorporate lessons from the ice more easily because they’re more comfortable on it than some of their non-ADM peers, especially when body contact comes into play. We have fun on the ice and encouragement precedes or accompanies any correction.

Concentrating on skills such as agility, balance, coordination and speed instead of wins and losses can help create a stronger foundation for the future.Concentrating on skills such as agility, balance, coordination and speed instead of wins and losses can help create a stronger foundation for the future.

In the interest of full disclosure, we did incorporate off-ice practices to walk through some basic positioning, in lieu of utilizing our precious ice time. Our team has one offensive “play.” It’s called 1-2-3 and it stands for puck, crease, slot – in that order.

When on defense, our players move in pairs and know the landmarks of where to center the puck and where to dump it deeper. The only goal in the defensive zone is to get the puck out. This is literally all the positional teaching that we’ve done.

Every off-ice session begins and ends with game play as well. Verbal instruction and walk-through positioning is limited to 25 minutes per session. By taking the kids off the ice, condensing the playing surface and still incorporating play time into these sessions, the lessons have translated very effectively on the ice.

Recently, our team suffered its first loss of the season in the championship game of a holiday tournament. I worried about how hard the kids would take it, or if the lesson in humility would be good for them. There were some tears and definitely some disappointment, both of which were remedied when the first boy realized the runner-up medals were also a hologram.

These are 6- to 8-year-old kids ... don’t over-think it. Trust that the body of knowledge and experience assembled by USA Hockey knows more than you do. Be an ambassador for the game and the lessons it teaches. If you’re on the bench this year, you’ve completed the age-appropriate modules. Everyone is taking them because everyone will adopt the ADM. It’s a matter of when, not if.

Embrace the change, even if your home rink or league hasn’t. You’ll still be competitive at the very least and your players will be better off in the long run.

Please know that I share this experience not as evidence of my coaching prowess, but as an encouraging example for other coaches who believe in the ADM. I bring zero organized playing experience to the rink, but what I did have is a true love of the game.

Just because your league hasn’t fully adopted the ADM doesn’t mean you can’t fully implement its principles.



Matt Goudy is a Mite coach in Frankfort, Ill.
photo by Matt Goudy

I have been part of the ADM

I have been part of the ADM now for 4 years with both my boys. My oldest will be a squirt next fall. I have seen the changes, the good and the bad. The good is the half ice up to a point. A transition needs to occur at some point during the 8U season to condition kids for full ice. The small nets at 8U are a huge set back in player and goalie development. I have seen first hand goalies just sit there with no idea how to move in the net. 6U kids also need exposer to goaltending. Just as there are windows for out skaters we are missing golden opportunities to correct these kids and get them moving properly from a young age. At 6U a pass the bag approach should be started to expose every child to it then if they have no interest move on to the ones who express interest. My oldest is a goalie and we went to a jamboree that used big nets. My son took the jamboree over and we won it. He posted a 1.75 GAA on big nets so to say 7 and 8 year olds can't cover it is just wrong. I have also seen the competition sucked out of the 8U and 6U program. My oldest competed in an 8U Jamboree as a 5 year old and played great. Now we are just making 6U into an extended learn to play and it is hurting these kids. They know when they win and lose. Our 8U team was very good this season. I had one parent who came up to me and said thank you because his son had wanted to quit hockey at age 7 because it was no fun but he loved being on a team that was competitive and had it's coaches push them. My only real beef with the ADM is the trend towards non-competition at the 8 and 6U levels. The half ice is great for the younger boys. We should incorporate some more long skates as well. Developing kids that can skate is very important and developing goalies at a young age is very important.

Cross Ice for 8 year olds

I disagree with this completely.

My son played full ice all this year. Then this spring he had the opportunity to play with the kids that had only been playing cross ice. We figured we would play in a house league instead since he was playing baseball too. It did not work out so well. The difference was amazing. My son progressed light years ahead of kids that were equals a year ago. My son understands offsides and how to push the puck back to his D, passing and a lot more. he was frustrated and asked me to try and get him on a team that knew the rules. We pulled him out and went back into the main program. Forcing the kids to regress is all this will do.



No one is saying examples like yours don't exist. In fact, that's the way things have been done for a very long time and domestic hockey has suffered for it. By your account, your son is at the top of the class, compared to his peers. I have ZERO doubt that any kid jumping from an ADM program to AAA would be completely overwhelmed, nor should anyone ever expect differently. However, don't let that anecdote cloud the facts. The objective data behind the ADM and the early measured results are indisputable. AAA mite hockey is precisely what the advanced 8U kids need, but the ADM will give ALL kids the fundamentals to excel when they're cognitively and physically ready to do so.

Thank you for posting your comment. Only through open dialogue will we ever foster a better understanding throughout the community of what the ADM is and is not.



Matt,I to think the ADM is a good thing,but I notice that your team did get to play a full ice schedule.From a practice standpoint I think the ADM model is great,I do feel however that your more advanced 7 and 8 year olds should not be forced into only playing cross ice games.I am the parent of an 8 year old,and we play AAA spring hockey.We took a couple young kids 6 and 7 year olds on our 03 team this year,these kids had only played cross ice,They are lost they don't know what offsides is they don't have any idea about positioning,because they are not taught these things at the cross ice level.If you think 7 and 8 year olds can't play full ice hockey,then come watch our kids play some time.We have no problem passing,shooting,breaking out of our zone,and playing at a competitive level.And the kids are still having fun.

William Oakes


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