What’s The Rush?

The More Players And Parents Try To Speed Up The Process The Farther Behind They’re Likely To Get
Ken Martel

There seems to be a trend in sports, especially in youth hockey, with our players and parents wanting to advance to the next level as quickly as possible. But what does the next level really mean for a Squirt, Peewee or Bantam?

As parents of young players, we need to slow down and focus on what really matters. Hockey provides an outlet to help our kids grow and learn some great lessons, such as the values of hard work, teamwork, sportsmanship and leadership.

Because the developmental curve varies widely, it is rare that the best Mite player ends up being the best Midget player. No matter how hard adults push, nature sets its own speed limits on development that we can’t jump over, eliminate or expedite. It is as if we are trying to climb the ladder of success at breakneck speed, but sometimes attempting to climb too high too fast only sets our kids up for a big fall.  

There is something to be said for playing at the level where you have a chance to handle the puck and make plays with confidence. If a player is always forced to play over his or her head, the skills they seem to develop most are the survival skills of “get it out” or “get it deep.” The best developmental line exists when our kids have both adversity and success. 

As the old saying goes “it’s not a sprint, it’s a marathon.” 

There are hundreds of interesting developmental success stories in our game. One of my favorites is Tom Preissing, the former defenseman with the San Jose Sharks. 

Tom began what many would consider his advanced hockey training with a full four years of high school. This was followed by three years of Junior hockey and then a solid four-year stint at Colorado College where during his breakthrough senior year Tom set the NCAA single-season goal scoring record by a defenseman (23). 

Add it up and that equates to 11 years of prime time development between the ages of 14 and 25. Toss in another eight years of youth hockey and Tom played almost two decades of hockey before he skated in his first NHL game. He would go on to play more than 300 games in the NHL and 100 more in Europe before hanging up his competitive skates a couple of years ago. 

The best coaches at the highest levels don’t talk about winning; they talk about the process. The American Development Model is all about the process. It is a comprehensive plan of development that starts from the ages of 8 & Under and goes all the way through adulthood. 

Where will today’s 12-year-old be by the time he reaches his late teens? The truth is that nobody knows. What parents, coaches and players need to worry about is today, and doing the right things that will help them down the road. By being patient today, tomorrow will take care of itself.

Too many people get ahead of themselves and place way too much importance on hockey achievements between the ages of 6 and 12 instead of being patient and understanding the significance of training and appropriate development during puberty.

While the number of Americans in the NHL has consistently grown over the years, the odds of making it are not much better than winning the lottery and being struck by lightning on the same day. What matters most is the journey. It’s all about the hours, days and years spent with family and friends and playing a sport we love.



The Benefits of Playing Other Sports

Being an athlete first and playing a variety of sports at this age will pay huge dividends down the road for every hockey player. 

Playing other sports will help with refining motor skills, balance, agility, coordination, and spatial awareness. It will also help reduce the risk of overuse injuries. 

When young children play only one sport year round they use the same muscles over and over again and become susceptible to injury. Playing multiple sports will not only use different muscles, it will help players become more well-rounded athletes.

Contrary to what some might think, playing hockey year-round won’t put you ahead of the competition. Hanging up the skates and taking a break from the rink will recharge a child’s batteries, keep them fresh, fit and ready to go when the puck drops on a new season.



Who is your favorite American player?
Auston Matthews
Jason Robertson
Tage Thompson
Matthew Tkachuk
Patrick Kane
Total votes: 395