From the Ground Up

With A Solid Foundation In Place, The ADM Expand Ladder Of Development

When the American Development Model was unveiled in 2009, the plan was to slowly introduce it at the grass-roots level and build from the ground up. That meant focusing on the development of hockey at the 8 & Under level. 

A funny thing happened as the program took root in youth hockey associations across the country. The ADM became synonymous with Mite cross-ice hockey, and the push to expand the program onward and upward took time to gain traction.

The first five years were devoted to changing a culture and creating a mindset that puts the athlete’s development ahead of wins and losses. Now efforts are being focused on expanding the program as players and parents are sold on what it can deliver, and they want more.

With the foundation in place, ADM regional managers are looking to raise the roof by expanding their focus to the next rungs on the ladder of development.

“As we’ve committed to this development model at the younger ages it’s time to put a little bit more of the focus on making sure there’s quality training and quality practices for our older kids,” says Roger Grillo, the ADM regional manager who covers the New England states.

“If you’re going to go upstairs, you have to have a furnished bedroom. You can’t set the stage at the bottom and have nothing to go to.”

The ADM continues to gain universal acceptance as the overwhelming majority of parents have bought into the philosophy of age-appropriate training and demand to see it expanded as their sons and daughters progress up the ranks.

“It’s gaining momentum quicker than we ever thought it would, and the people who have been in Mite programs, people who have experienced well-run ADM programs, there’s no way they’ll accept anything less,” says Kevin McLaughlin, USA Hockey’s senior director of Development who oversees the program.

To be clear, the core principles of the ADM are not changing. If anything, the program’s managers and local volunteer coordinators remain committed to the sports science behind the idea of long-term athlete development. All they’re doing is broadening the focus to take aim at the Squirt and Peewee levels in an effort to capitalize on the “golden age of skill acquisition.”

According to sports science, this is the time in a child’s life when he or she is best suited physically, cognitively, emotionally and mentally to further enhance a base of skills that will set the stage for long-term success
in hockey.

“That skill window is open between the ages of 9 to 12 years old, and we really need to take advantage of that by tailoring our practices to build on the basic skills they’ve developed at Mites,” said Guy Gosselin, the regional manager for the upper Midwest. 

“We don’t really need to necessarily work on the power play, penalty kill rotation or some of the tactical stuff that our culture believes we have to work on. That stuff comes later.”

According to ADM Regional Manager Bob Mancini, refocusing their efforts doesn’t mean that they will let the foundation be ignored and crumble from neglect. Too much time and effort has gone into changing the culture at the youngest level and there is no turning back now.


“We can never take our eye off the ball because it’s critical to give our youngest players a solid base,” Mancini said. “So while we continue to expand our efforts to work with older kids, we can never forget what’s happening at the youngest ages because that’s what forms the foundation for their future.”



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