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Notes from Nick Parillo:
Since its inception in 2009 USA Hockey’s American Development Model (ADM) has been a hot topic in almost every rink throughout the United States. The ADM which was created by USA hockey after years of extensive research that involved world class trainers, doctors, nutritionists and psychologists is continually under public fire. The debate often centers on half ice versus full ice games at the younger birth years. Skeptics to this innovative development model have sought an alternative and have turned to the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU).
Many AAU team leaders cleverly recruit by defaming the ADM with the promise of full ice games and full ice practices, “real hockey” in their terms. This divide between scientifically based athletic development versus keeping the game the same has created the Civil War of hockey in the U.S
“The debate will always be there with the ADM, at every birth year there is someone that has played at a relatively high level during their playing days and does not agree with the science behind what we do. Unfortunately playing at a high level doesn’t always equate to being able to teach an 8 year old how to skate or having the knowledge to put a practice plan together to optimize age appropriate skill development given the short time allotted for on-ice practice.” Scott Paluch USA Hockey Regional Manager Of The American Development Model and Former Bowling Green State University Head Coach
What is the right route for my child’s development? This becomes a complex question when given the two choices and knowing the parity in skill and size that exists at the younger ages. The answer when two great arguments occur about anything usually lies somewhere in the middle.
|An athlete’s development is analogous to that of an infant: you crawled before you walked and walked before you ran. One facet of development fed into the next. Now consider this analogy concerning an ice hockey player: you did not zoom around the ice before first learning how to balance on skates or shoot and pass a puck before learning how to hold your hockey stick. Each skill fed into the successful acquisition of the next skill. The American Development Model is a blue print for progressively building age-specific skills in order to have success at all ability levels of the game. USA hockey has given our youth coaches a guideline for age appropriate on-ice development with age-specific drills which ensure that our players learn how to use their edges, stick handle and shoot a puck-the fundamentals for success in the sport - while being in a competitive, fun and nurturing academic environment.
Practice plans at the younger ages are mapped out for the coaches and the rink is divided strategically into sections for various drills. The division of the ice surface serves a multi-purpose role. More stations allow more content covered in a single practice. This structure also allows more participants on the ice at one time, keeping ice costs down while allowing more players into the game through the removal of team rosters and the allocation of ice that once restricted the number of teams an association could host. Lastly, a great coach to player ratio keeps the players moving; serving to keep a younger players attention longer.
Using USA hockey’s half-ice mandate at the 6U & 8U ages allows every player an opportunity to touch the puck more during game play. Major U.S. youth sports like soccer, baseball, football and basketball all have surfaces that have been age appropriately modified creating a better opportunity for younger athletes to learn to play the game properly. In contrast watching a full ice 6U or 8U hockey game can be compared to watching Miguel Cabrera in a homerun derby contest against little leaguers. There are 2 or 3 kids on each of these teams that dominate play; while you might think “at least these kids will be getting better”, you are wrong. In a small area game scenario even the more skilled players are challenged because they must now maneuver through smaller spaces. Their skill set of edge control, puck control and body position improve immensely and is not limited to anticipating a quick break while waiting at the red line.
An additional skill acquired in the small area game concept is body contact which occurs more frequently in the smaller area which helps the player learn how to use his/her body to create advantages during game play. The payoff for this skill will occur as the player graduates to the checking ages given that more players will be accustomed to body contact allowing for a smoother transition. Further, this contact may result in fewer explosion type checks in favor of riding the man off the puck in order to reacquire the puck in transition, the result being fewer injuries. Ultimately, it has been my observation that the ADM has put fun back in the game for the kids, giving more of a “pond hockey feel” where the game itself is the greatest teacher.
A counter approach to the ADM and what many people may have heard of but might not be totally familiar with is the AAU. The AAU is the fastest growing ice hockey program and currently exists in 21 states around the United States. The philosophy of the AAU is "Sports for All, Forever." Since the implementation of the ADM model by USA hockey the AAU has been gaining speed as the counterpart to the USA hockey’s plan to implement the ADM in all of our country’s youth hockey organizations. The AAU encourages local organizations to create their own models that cater to the level of play on each team. This lack of leadership reinforces the AAU supporter’s argument that the ADM is forcing mite hockey players into a “one size fits all” program which is detrimental to younger elite hockey players.
The AAU’s approach is in complete contrast to the research surrounding the creation of the ADM program. Given that hockey is a late developing sport and close to 60% of players drop out by the age of 14 in the United States, the supporters of the AAU ignore this research. Having personally spent ten years working with hockey players and going through the system myself I have seen that just because at 6 or even 14 years of age you are not a “great player”, does not mean that by 18 or 23 you will not be a “great hockey player”.
One argument used against the ADM is that the cross ice only approach for ages 6-9 misses an important window for teaching skating skills and ADM’s cross ice only approach limits a player’s ability to develop skating fundamentals such as open ice speed forward and backward. The science behind the ADM states that a player 6-9 has a potential for growth in the areas of quickness, agility and subtleness (1st speed window). At this age the player’s musculature is not developed enough to teach a powerful stride for 200 ft. USA Hockey encourages skating coaches at practices to work with players skating techniques so that when the body reaches that stage of muscle development for a complete stride, the player is competent. Yet, despite the years of research on this topic, parents still come to me and say “well my son or daughter played full ice all year and then participated with players that played half ice and they are way ahead…” 9 out of 10 times that I see this same child out on the ice immediately I can tell that he/she lacks the necessities and foundation that others have gained participating in the ADM. Yes he/she is fast skating down the ice and yes he/she competes well, but put that skater into drills where he/she must maneuver quickly and demonstrate a proper weight shift going in and out of a turn and they are almost always awkward. They lack the technique and the thousands of repetitions the cross ice players have attained. The question to these parents is, “At 16-20 where will your player be without the proper foundation?”
Every situation is different and in my 10+ years working as a hockey instructor I have seen great players get better, but more often I have seen great players fall flat at advanced levels of the game due to lacking skill foundation or failing to have the work ethic needed to distinguish themselves in competitive situations.
I would ask parents to think about these facts when choosing between USA Hockey’s model and that of the AAU. USA Hockey’s decades of dedication to research and development has resulted in a model which allows each athlete the opportunity for getting the proper fundamentals they will need for long term achievement in the sport. Without these fundamentals, as a 16 year old player hoping to take their game to the next level…will they be ready? I believe USA hockey has answered this question.
Nick Parillo (HPD Head Instructor)
Any questions on this subject please feel free to email me at
Kids who play on ice hockey teams where body-checking is allowed are three times more likely to sustain a concussion and other severe injuries than those who play in non-checking leagues. Published data in today's Journal of the American Medical Association suggest youth hockey teams would be better off avoiding play that allows players to knock opponents off the ice or into the boards.
"The evidence is significant that there is an increased risk of injury and concussion of young ice hockey players in body-checking leagues," says Carolyn Emery, associate professor in the sport injury prevention research center at the University of Calgary in Alberta.
Mary Marty Brophy USA Today
Hockey Player Development Summer 2014 Clinics
Check out the lastest post in Notes from Nick: Cold Hard Truth when it comes to Skating Stride
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Grant Meyer - "Phantoms" USHL
We always like to hear from our students...
"Just wanted to say thanks for having the opportunity to skate in the HPD Adult Hockey Program. My skating has improved significantly. I appreciate the professionalism and dedication you and your team provided. I plan to participate in future clinics and will also share my experience with others. You and your team deserve significant praise. Thanks for pushing us beyond our comfort zone and forcing us to develop our skills."
HPD Participant - Dan P
Thank you for the kind words Dan! - Nick Parillo
Kyle Rogers Captain of the Toledo Walleye and HPD Instructor poses with a couple of this year's moderate clinic participants
IRON CROSS: Hockey Player Development version of the iron cross demonstrated here by Nick Parillo. This drill can be done using the same pattern with or without the puck. Also forward to backward and just backward with or without a puck can be administered using this same pattern. This drill is a great drill to quicken feet as well as concentrate on form. Staying low around turns with your stick always in front of you is essential in acceleration out of these turns. More bend with inside leg or (leg closes to pylon) translates into better extension out of turn and equals more acceleration throughout this drill.
Iain Duncan & Nick Parillo 8 Cone Warmup
"I trust Hockey Player Development training techniques with my son Adam."
Nicklas Lidstrom # 5
Detroit Red Wings
"Nick and his staff at Hockey Player Development do a very good job training and working with the kids. They are committed hockey professionals who possess a solid grasp of the important teaching principles and develop a great rapport with their students. I like the environnment they create of hardwork, learning, competition and fun on and off the ice."
Director of Player Personnel
HPD Featured Clinic of the month:
Overspeed Clinic runs eight consecutive weeks total throughout June and July. One hour of dryland precedes every practice. The Overspeed clinic is designed for elite players wanting to get an edge for the upcoming season.
Proven NHL training methods will be used on ice. Mandatory workout program will be implemented for off clinic days.
||Coaches have Hockey Player Development come and run your teams practice!!
If your team is looking to get an edge this season we can help.
The plan is simple.......
Just Contact us with some ideas on what your team has been lacking this season, give us a day and time of your desired practice session.
Hockey Player Developments experienced staff will set up and run a team practice on that day and time.
What makes HPD an elite development opportunity?
Over the years through hard work and dedication to the sport we have developed a true system in developing elite hockey players. We specialize in building a strong foundation for our youth players using power skating techniques that reinforce proper skating stride and being strong on edges. For older players on-ice development continues with reinforcing proper skating technique with added emphasis on strength and conditioning. The development process continues off the ice with HPD by teaching our youths how to properly and effectively train their cores. During our off ice sessions youth players learn why core strength is vital in hockey. They learn strengthening activities that enhance a players ability to change direction, take hits or make hits, and most importantly allow the body to bear greater loads and enhance the bodies ability to create external force. This comes into play when you push against the ice to take a strong and more explosive stride. Younger players at HPD start out with basic plyometric exercises creating a good foundation for transitioning into more complex strengthening activities at older ages.
In the end and unfortunately most coaches, programs and players fail to realize what type of work ethic and commitment reaching their potential in hockey takes. At HPD we are here to help provide you with not only the fundamentals but understanding the commitment it takes to get better at this game. Then it will be up to you the player to decide whether or not this is something you wish to build your life around.
Hope to see you this summer!
Nick Parillo (HPD Head Instructor)
Any questions on this subject please feel free to email me at
OVER THE YEARS I HAVE OFTEN PONDERED WHY HOCKEY PLAYERS & GOALTENDERS IN PARTICULAR RISE ABOVE & MAKE IT TO THE NHL. WHY SO MANY END UP DRIVING THE ZAMBONI, SELLING VALUE MEALS AT A FAST FOOD RESTAURANT, OR ETERNALLYREMINDING THE CUSTOMER,”YOU MUST PAY BEFORE YOU PUMP AFTER 11:00 PM, SIR.” (NOT THAT THOSE ARE BAD CAREER CHOICES!). FROM THE HOME OFFICE IN SIOUX CITY, IOWA HERE ARE THE TOP 10 REASONS FOR SUCCESS:
1. Want it more than your parents – You know who you are. Daddy hacks & whacks in the beer league. “I could’ve, should’ve, would’ve but…”
2. Ability to recognize & study successful peers
3. Willing to experiment
4. Able to handle praise & attention properly & with perspective
5. Hockey is a healthy full-time obsession
6. Able to work longer & harder than real or imagined peers. If you already work harder than anyone else you know does, you must recognize that there is probably someone you don’t know doing more than you. This is a powerful motivator.
7. Able to internalize confidence. Ask Brian Burke of the Vancouver Canucks if I was adept at this! Oh, you said internalize, not externalize. Show people how good you are don't tell them.
8. Able to handle constructive criticism. If you are already that perfect why aren’t you in the NHL?
9. Continued practice on weaknesses. You must assess, recognize & accept weakness in certain areas. Develop & perfect weaknesses. Challenge weakness, don’t ignore It!.
10. Continued practice on skills already mastered. I always run into goalies that don’t need to work on a certain element of the game because they already have it down. All goaltenders in the NHL continue to work on basics like movement, rebound control & recoveries.
99% OF CURRENT NHL PLAYERS NEVER MADE IT SOLELY ON THE TALENT THAT THEY WERE BORN WITH. THEY EXPERIENCED BENCHING, POLITICAL TEAM CUTS, LOST PARENTAL POPULARITY CONTESTS, BAD INJURIES, BAD TIMING, BAD TEAMMATES, BAD COACHES, LOSING SEASONS,AND A LITANY OF OTHER POTENTIAL CAREER STOPPERS. THEY ROSE ABOVE ALL DOUBTERS, THEY ROSE ABOVE JEALOUSY, AND THEY ROSE ABOVE COMMON & UNCOMMON EXCUSES FOR FAILURE. SIMPLY PUT, THEY SINGLE-HANDEDLY DID IT.
“STRIVE TO DETERMINE EVERY POTENTIAL EXCUSE FOR FAILURE IN YOUR CURRENT SITUATION. SYSTEMATICALLY, AND WITH VIGOR, REFUSE & REFUTE EACH INSTANCE, DETERMINING THAT YOUR UPWARD PATH IS ENTIRELY SELF-DIRECTED NOT EXTERNALLY DETERMINED.”
-Stephen McKichan Goaltending Coach Toronto Maple Leafs.