Talking to Your Athlete About SafeSport

As you all know, USA Hockey is introducing its Abuse Prevention Program SafeSport this year and Colorado Amateur Hockey Association (CAHA) is taking huge steps to make sure all Colorado hockey clubs are on board. To make sure this program is successful, we need parents to be fully engaged and participating in the entire program.

I know acknowledging that abuse (physical, sexual or emotional) can take place where our kids play sports is hard, but we must educate ourselves if we want to protect our athletes. As parents we must accept our responsibility in making sure that those who are around our youth—coaches, parents and other athletes—are behaving appropriately. SafeSport is where that education and awareness can begin.
Following are some quick tips on how to implement SafeSport with your athlete.

  • Have both parents read the organization’s SafeSport handbook. If you believe your athlete is old enough (12 and up), have your player read it on his or her own.

  • Then, read the handbook together with your athlete, no matter what age.

  • Discuss each section, and ask your athlete if he or she has ever seen or experienced any of these issues.

  • Give your athlete examples of situations and ask what he or she would do. Offer ideas on how to handle these situations.

  • Have regular discussion with your athlete (during all those drives to the rink) about SafeSport and find out if there is anything your player needs to discuss.

  • When you read articles in the paper about bullying, sexual abuse or physical abuse among athletes, engage your athlete in a discussion.

  • Use high-profile athletes’ stories about overcoming abuse as examples.

  • Talk with your athlete about what the coach or other teammates do that is bothering him or her, and provide support on handling those issues.

  • Talk about the locker room. Make sure you give your athlete an opportunity to tell you if something is going on. Be engaged and send a message that you are interested, you know that things can happen in there and you are not afraid to hear about it. You want to know.

  • Remind your player of the rules and SafeSport policies prior to travel or tournaments. Discuss this at the dinner table and make it a part of your regular conversation with your athlete—even if he or she complains. Your player will get used to it and will know that he or she can come to you if necessary.

  • • Encourage your child to report and be a hero.

Good luck!

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Michelle Peterson M.Ed., of Michelle Peterson Consulting for this story. Michelle is a national expert on child abuse and currently works with youth sport organizations on creating child abuse prevention policy and procedures.

Ringettes Rock at ADM Clinic!

I first saw ringettes in use at an ADM clinic for the U8 set at Magness Arena, home of the DU Pioneers. The way kids fought for those blue rubber circles, I knew they had to offer something more than just novelty. They somehow ended up in my kids’ Christmas stockings, ready for play in the driveway and at stick-and-puck sessions (where they have a hard time making sure they don’t go home with other players!).

It turns out, I’m not the only one intrigued and impressed by the ringette. At a recent ADM coaching clinic at the Pepsi Center, home of the Colorado Avalanche, coaches queried USA Hockey ADM Regional Manager Joe Doyle about them. And once again the players, this time Squirts, vied to get their sticks on the ringettes. According to Doyle, the drill — which involved holding onto the ringette while making big, wide, exaggerated fakes — helps with:

  • Strengthening the bottom hand to help with competing for the puck

  • Keeping the stick on the ice

  • Avoiding high sticks

  • Fostering creative moves

Aside from serving as a great segue to pucks in hockey drills, ringette is a sport in its own right. Popular with girls in Canada, the sport is similar to hockey — except the fast-paced game is played with a straight stick. Learn more about ringette in the following video:

To order your own ringettes, click here. I suggest the Ring Wrap With Ring (the removable wrap lets you use it on pavement).

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kelly Anton, managing editor of the Grow the Game initiative, for this story.

3 Insights on the Body-Checking Rule Change Proposal

Parents and players—particularly upcoming and current PeeWees—are all abuzz about the possibility of USA Hockey changing the age of legal body checking in games from 12U (PeeWee) to 14U (Bantam) for the fall 2011–2012 season. Well, you’ll know soon enough. The USA Hockey Board of Directors will vote on the proposal in June 2011. See what the experts are saying here:

1. USA Hockey’s team doctor, Dr. Michael Stuart, summarizes his recommendation—to delay body checking in games until the Bantam level while promoting a structured, progressive curriculum in practice to teach body contact, angling, anticipation and checking—in this video. (Watch the full video here.)

2. At the August 2010 World Hockey Summit, Brendan Shanahan weighed in, saying “I think player safety and skill development is more important.” Shanahan would know: he played for 21 years in the NHL and is now the NHL’s vice president of hockey and business development. Read the full story here.

3. Get answers to commonly asked questions on the rule change proposal here.

Remember, the rule affects legal body checking in games—not body contact in games, not checking in practice. Get the facts, then discuss among yourselves (we know you can't help it!).

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kelly Anton, managing editor of the Grow the Game initiative, for rounding up these resources.

USA Hockey Body-Checking Rule Change Proposal

The proposed rule change will move the age of legal body checking in games from 12U to 14U. USA Hockey’s Board of Directors, Councils, Committees and Affiliate Presidents discussed all playing-rule proposals at their Winter Meeting in mid-January 2011. The USA Hockey Board of Directors will vote on the proposal in June 2011. If passed, the change would take effect for the fall 2011–2012 season.

How did the discussion begin?

The body checking discussion is one that has been going on for a long time within USA Hockey. This is a complex and emotional issue and is being looked at from many angles. Although safety is obviously a huge concern, we didn’t approach this initially from the safety side of the equation. We began by looking at how players develop their hockey-playing abilities. Over the past two years we began to evaluate how Squirt and PeeWee skaters play and react in similar on-ice situations. We observed that Squirts tend to be more aggressive, and emphasize skills (skating, stickhandling, passing and body position) in an attempt to make plays. The conclusion was simply that players at the Squirt level attempt to play the game in the correct manner.

In the same situations, however, many Peewee players react differently. Players at the PeeWee level were observed either allowing the opponent to get the puck first so that they can initiate body contact or laying off so that they don’t get hit. Although this may not be true for every player, we have found that it is common and prevalent at all levels of PeeWee hockey throughout the United States. With this being said, we do know that physiologically (and most importantly), players at this age are in their prime “window of opportunity” to acquire sports skills. The current rules we have in place hinder our children from the acquisition of skills at the highest possible level.

What else was learned during the study?

Although the original focus was not on the injury side of this issue, so much medical research information has been brought forward that it simply cannot be ignored. USA Hockey must always consider the health and safety of its players. A number of recent studies (in Canada at the AAA level) show that the serious injury rate at PeeWee is four times greater in checking vs. non-checking leagues. Of note is the fact that the injury rate between those same two groups is identical (and low) in practice.

What also came to light is the fact that, cognitively, the 11-year-old brain has not fully developed the ability to anticipate well. Anticipation is 50 percent of a player’s ability to protect himself and avoid heavy contact that leads to these serious injuries. We realize there should be contact in hockey; however, we do not want to place players into a situation where their cognitive skills are not yet fully developed to protect themselves. This is a function of brain development that players cannot “learn” by doing.

Who else was involved in this decision process for USA Hockey?

USA Hockey’s Body Checking Sub-Committee is made up of experts from a variety of areas. This includes people such as Dr. Mike Stuart from the Mayo Clinic who is USA Hockey’s Chief Medical Officer and the father of three sons who have played in the NHL; Al McInnis; Mike Millbury; and many others. USA Hockey has taken a very inclusive look at this issue.

Wouldn’t the rule change hurt bigger players?

During the PeeWee years (11 to 12 years old), most male players are just on the cusp of hitting their adolescent growth spurt. This means that it is still to be determined who will end up being the bigger players in the long run. The player that has greater size and strength at PeeWee may end up being on the average or smaller side when everything evens out during the later teens. This means that players who rely on size and strength at an early age do not develop the necessary playing skills they need to be effective later on. Body contact and body positioning skills are far more important for a player to acquire at the PeeWee age and are the precursor skills to effective checking and playing skills as they get older.

What is body contact vs. full-body checking?

It is not accurate to simply say USA Hockey is taking checking out of PeeWees. The overall proposal is to increase the allowable body contact beginning at Mites and progress through Bantam when full, legal body checking would begin in games. As an example, the American Developmental Model (ADM) Red, White & Blue Hockey at 8U introduces the cross-ice environment to increase traffic and congestion—and thus, the associated natural body contact—through simply reducing space.

The proposal would then increase the allowable body contact as player’s progress through Squirts and PeeWees. Competing at the puck, angling to gain possession or stop an offensive attack are examples at these levels. An important objective of this proposal is to eliminate the “big hit” in PeeWees where players ignore the puck and try to “blow up” an opponent.

Although not allowed in games, coaches will be asked to introduce and teach full-body checking techniques in every practice during the two PeeWee years. We believe this to be a better solution than what we oftentimes see today: a single weekend “introduction to checking” clinic. The proposal is to provide players two years to acquire the necessary checking skills in a safer environment.

Where can I get more information?

You may check out the body-checking rule change proposal by Kevin McLaughlin, USAH Senior Director of Hockey Development, and Brian Burke.

What does this mean for Spring 2011 at U12?

There will be no change to hockey in spring 2011. The 2011 spring season will be played under the current rules and format since the proposal will not be voted on until June 2011.

What happens to the PeeWees going into their second year?

Due to the nature of the two-year hockey levels, second year PeeWees will continue to learn proper checking during their training sessions so they can better apply them in 14U Bantam games.

Editor’s Note: Thank you to USA Hockey for providing this Q&A.

Practice to Game Ratio: A Healthy Meal vs. Dessert

In today’s version of youth sports we have a very unhealthy ratio of practice to games. In many youth hockey associations the practice-to-game ratio is 1-to-1 or 2-to-1. To me practice is the healthy meal and the games are the dessert. What would serve our young athletes much better would be a healthier ratio of 3-to-1.

Unfortunately, many of today’s players look at practice much in the same way they look at broccoli—with a great deal of disdain. In my mind, the goal of every coach is to make the healthy meal more appealing to our athletes in order for them to attain and build the necessary skills to guide them throughout their journey upwards in the youth hockey ranks.

The ultimate goal is to make practices as much fun as the games, because in the end it is practice that allows our players to develop the skills that will allow them to have the success they desire in the games.

As a coach this can be difficult to achieve. How do I make practice appealing enough and the games special enough to drive the desired outcome? In my mind, you feed them the healthy meal so that when the dessert comes they can really enjoy it and it becomes a special event that they have earned.

So how do we do this? First of all, you have to change the culture and get both the players and the parents to understand how important practice is to their development. The pace, intensity and focus needed in every practice session is critical in order to have positive, productive movement forward.

How do you get your child to eat a healthy meal? Trick them, hide the fact that they are working hard and getting the necessary touches and repetitions through FUN, CHALLENGING and CREATIVE drills and games that takes the mundane aspects of developing a player and masks them.

Kids love to be challenged; they love to compete and they want to have fun. If I can get my players to enjoy coming to the rink, working hard and leaving with a smile on their faces, then I have won the most important challenge I face as a youth hockey coach.

We get so consumed with the games and wins and losses that we lose sight of the real fight. I feel strongly that if I can get my players to give as much as they can and be passionate about how hard they train then I have already won.

As a coach practice is my opportunity and responsibility to make my players better, and games are the player’s opportunity to demonstrate what they have learned from their dedication in practice. As a coach, the practice sessions are mine. That is my world and I take great pride in what I put forth. To the players, the games are theirs and we need to respect that; however, we need to make sure we have given them the tools and skills to have the success they desire.

At the end of the day it comes down to the willingness to fight, to change the way we look at practice. It is about the skills we are developing not about the systems or the positioning or where a kid stands for a faceoff. Consider this: If I am a conductor of a marching band, do I focus as much of my student’s time on marching and where they stand as I do on how well they play their instrument?

It is our responsibility as coaches, administrators and parents to make sure our kids are eating properly so that at the end of the journey we can look back at a healthy young adult who has a strong base of skills and knowledge of the sport, and take pride in the fact that they got to a great place because of the environment we created.

Let's collectively change the way our kids look at practice and together we will have given the great sport of hockey a much healthier, larger and passionate pool of young players.

Editor's Note: Thank you to Roger Grillo, USA Hockey Director-Northeast, for this story.

10 Myths About the American Development Model

I realize any change—good, bad or indifferent—is still a change and can be difficult for people to accept. So I started to collect a few of the negative comments I have heard about the American Development Model (ADM) with regards to cross-ice play, all in the hopes that I can dispel these myths.

1. IT ISN'T REAL HOCKEY. USING HALF THE SURFACE AND THE SMALLER NETS WON'T HELP KIDS LEARN THE REAL GAME. Do other sports ask their youngest athletes to play on a full-size football field, use a 10' basketball net, run 90' bases or use a full-size soccer net? No. Smaller fields and equipment are used everywhere except in hockey. Age-appropriate surfaces and equipment help put the game into perspective for younger kids, allow for better development of their skills and, most importantly, help make the game more fun for the kids!

2. IT WILL BE TOO CROWDED ON THE ICE. I have now seen two practices in person with 60+ Mites on the ice at the same time and have watched multiple videos of practices with the same amount (or more) and have yet to see it look crowded. Well-planned practices with the right number of coaches to help run stations are effective ways to use ice efficiently without crowding. All of the kids I witnessed at these practices and jamborees were engaged in fun drills or games with lots of puck time and plenty of smiles!

3. THE KIDS WON'T LEARN TEAMWORK. How much teamwork is involved with one skater taking the puck from one end of a full sheet of ice, skating it all the way down, and then shooting before most of the other teammates can catch up or get involved in the play? You know you have seen it at a Mite full-ice game over and over. Cross-ice forces kids to work together in smaller areas to develop scoring opportunities and be creative.

4. THE KIDS WON'T LEARN TO SKATE. The ADM actually emphasizes age-appropriate skating drills and places a lot of focus on fun drills and activities that help players develop more over the long term. The smaller areas also help kids increase their quickness and explosive speed, which is best developed at the younger ages.

5. THE KIDS WON'T LEARN ABOUT POSITIONING. It won’t matter if kids know where to be if they can’t skate there or if they don’t enjoy the game. Also, teaching positions too early can stifle creativity and the ability to think on the fly. When they are older, players can learn more about positioning, breakouts, and forechecking systems without hurting their development early on.

6. THE ADM IS ONLY FOR THE AVERAGE PLAYER. Kids learn, grow and develop at different speeds. The 7-year-olds who you think might be the next superstar may not develop as fast as others later on. Providing good coaching and development to all is important when kids are young since early segmentation has proven to be unreliable as a predictor of which kids will develop into elite athletes. It’s best for those kids who excel early on to continue to focus on age-appropriate drills that will best help their long-term development. Those drills can help both the 6-year-old who has been skating for three years and the 8-year-old who is enjoying his first season.

7. HOW WILL KIDS GET IN SHAPE OR GET THEIR CONDITIONING? Have you battled for a puck in the corner and gone back and forth in about a 10' space for 20 seconds? Have you ever gone back and forth between the point and the slot four times? There are numerous ways kids can get conditioned in small areas or in small games, so don’t worry about missing out on that aspect with the ADM. There are a lot more ways than skating lines on a full sheet to build up conditioning, especially with fun drills and small-area games that keep kids smiling and wanting more even though they are dead tired!

8. TOO MUCH FUN IS A BAD THING. Really? If the kids are enjoying the puck touches, small games and scoring, and are learning to love development, how can that ever be a bad thing? I just don’t get that comment but hey, people have said it (I can’t make this stuff up). Think about it. If the kids come off the ice tired, developed, smiling and excited about when they can come back again for more, where is the down side? I wish everyone could find something they enjoy so much that is also great for their long-term development!

9. THE RINKS AND ASSOCIATIONS ARE JUST TRYING TO MAKE MORE MONEY BY JAMMING MORE KIDS ON THE ICE. It couldn’t be further from the truth. First, re-read the myth about crowding. Second, more efficient use of the ice can decrease your costs and can increase the number of times you practice each week. I, too, was once a hockey snob when my kids were younger and thought they needed more full ice. They would have been better developed if they had used the ice they had more efficiently and practiced more often than having a full sheet all to themselves. This could have improved their skills, made the game even more enjoyable, and helped reduced the costs mom and dad incurred each season.

10. THE KIDS WON'T HAVE AS MUCH FUN. Ask your kids if they like to play games or stand around? Ask them if they like to carry the puck and score goals? Ask them if they like whistles and stoppages in play? Kids invariable have more fun when they are actively engaged during practice or in a game. High-energy drills, variety of drills, drills with pucks and small games all help develop kids while they are having loads of fun! Also cross-ice games support these same ideals with more puck touches, more scoring opportunities and less stoppages and make for a more enjoyable game for everyone involved!

USA Hockey put a lot of research and effort into looking at how to approach the game—so give the ADM a chance when your organization implements the model. I am very confident you’ll be pleasantly surprised with the results!

Editor’s Note: Thank you to Kevin Universal, president of the Carolina Amateur Hockey Association, for this story.

USA Hockey: Locker Room Alert

To all USA Hockey Local Programs: This is to alert you of a security issue regarding locker room activity involving youth hockey players that happened recently. A man in his 60s was able to enter locker rooms when players were changing and showering. He asked them questions and attempted to collect contact information. In addition, it appears this man entered other locker rooms while the players were on the ice and may have taken identification information from clothing. He claimed he was an equipment supplier agent, which was a ruse to get information from players. Police were summoned; the man was questioned, photographed and escorted out of the facility.

  • It is imperative that all local programs have an adult (coach, assistant coach, team manager) present in the locker room, or at the locker room door, to assure that only players, coaches and approved team personnel are permitted in the locker room.

  • Further, coaches/team managers must personally monitor the locker room environment at all times while players are present and also make sure the locker room is appropriately secured during times when players are on the ice.

Please make sure this information is shared with those appropriate and thank you in advance for your immediate and on-going attention to this matter.

Dave Ogrean
Executive Director
USA Hockey

10 Ways to Celebrate Hockey Weekend Across America

hwaa_2010Hockey Weekend Across America will take place this coming weekend, Jan. 29-31, 2010. The effort is aimed at celebrating the game of hockey and all involved in the sport and providing opportunities for those who haven’t played hockey to try it. The following article offers 10 great ways to celebrate the event.

Here are ten great ways to celebrate Hockey Weekend Across America:

  1. Wear your jersey to school

  2. Bring a friend to a public skate

  3. School project: Who is your favorite hockey player, why?

  4. Informational table at mall or high‐traffic area

  5. School seminars where they teach hockey and do demonstrations (put on hockey equip)

  6. Try Hockey for Free

  7. Shoot the puck expo

  8. Invite a neighbor to practice

  9. Hockey 101 courses

  10. Bring a friend to a game

For more great ideas click here (pdf).

Editor’s Note: Thank you to USA Hockey for these great ideas!

How to Try Hockey For Free

hwaa_2010One of the largest barriers to growing the game of hockey is making it cost-effective and convenient. To demonstrate how to overcome these barriers, Saturday, January 30th, of the 2010 Hockey Weekend Across America, USA Hockey will promote a nationwide free trial of hockey.

This is a countrywide effort to have local rinks and associations offer a free sample of hockey at a consistent time with the maximum amount of ease. The goal is to have least 200 rinks offer the program from 11:00 am to 12:00 pm their local time zone. For other questions, please email

Editor’s Note: For more information on Hockey Weekend Across America, please click here.

Who Oversees USA Hockey’s ADM Program?

usa_hockey_logo_postThe following article outlines the team that has been put into place to spread the message about USA Hockey’s American Development model. Led by Ken Martel, the team will blanket the United States, and help hockey programs grow strong players in a healthy manner while building excitement for the game of hockey.

A two-time Olympian. An NHL coach who helped create the National Team Development Program. A pair of highly respected Division I college coaches. A decorated Air Force officer with hockey experience at the highest levels. If Ken Martel has proven anything during his years as the recruiting coordinator for the National Team Development Program, it is that he knows talent when he sees it.

Martel, the director of the American Development Model, has put together a staff that will carry the word of USA Hockey’s revolutionary program, designed to improve the quality and quantity of American players involved in the game from Mites to Midgets.

“You win with the quality of people you have, and we have tremendous people with great backgrounds in hockey,” said Martel, who was one of the main architects of the program. “By the time we’re done, we’ll have 150 years of hockey experience working for the ADM.”

To date, Martel has hired five of the six regional managers who will serve as mentors for associations around the country. He is hoping to bring in the final member of his team in the coming weeks. Each member of the team not only brings an impressive resume to the position but also the passion to usher this groundbreaking program into this season and beyond.

  • Roger Grillo, who spent the last 12 seasons as the head coach at Brown University, will serve as the ADM regional manager for New England and Massachusetts.

  • Scott Paluch, who coached his Alma Mater at Bowling Green State University for the past seven seasons, will work the Mid-Am and Southeast Districts. “It was a difficult decision only because I spent the last 20 years as a college coach,” said Paluch. “It was an easy decision because of the merits of the ADM and the ability to make an impact on youth hockey.”

  • Joe Doyle, a 20-year veteran of the United States Air Force with more than 35 years of experience with USA Hockey as a player, coach, evaluator and volunteer, will oversee the Rocky Mountain and Pacific Districts.

  • Bob Mancini, who spent the past two seasons as a development coach for the Edmonton Oilers and has extensive coaching experience in the collegiate ranks and with USA Hockey, will oversee Michigan and parts of the Central and Mid-Am Districts. “I’m thrilled to be back,” said Mancini, one of the original coaches with the NTDP. “As much as I love the NHL and the Edmonton Oilers, this was too good an opportunity to be involved with. “I believe in USA Hockey, and the ADM. I believe in making kids better and improving their environment. I really believe that this is a position where we can really make a difference.”

  • Guy Gosselin, a member of the 1988 and 1992 U.S. Olympic Teams, will lend his considerable expertise to coaches in Minnesota, the Dakotas and Wisconsin. He has extensive experience working at both the youth hockey and collegiate levels, and has worked in the rink industry in suburban Milwaukee.

The final regional manager is slated to work with the New York and Atlantic Districts. While no timetable has been set, Martel is working hard to narrow down a list of candidates in hopes of filling the position as quickly as possible.

“There’s still so much that needs to be done,” said Martel. “We could’ve used this program in place 10 years ago. Think of how far we’d be as a hockey-playing nation if this were put in place 10 years ago. We feel like we’re taking baby steps, but getting things done takes time.”

Editor’s note: For more information on USA Hockey’s American Development Model, Please click here.

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