The Des Moines Youth Hockey Association board voted unanimously at their January 2011 meeting to implement cross ice play for 8u. USA Hockey, the governing body for all youth associations nationwide mandates this program and after doing hundreds of hours of research and attending seminars the board feels that this program does a great job in developing necessary skills for our young players.
The USA Hockey Cross-Ice program is based on a model of practicing and playing hockey across the ice surface as compared to practicing and playing lengthwise along the full length of the ice surface. This cross-ice practicing and playing model has been used in many of the leading hockey nations in the world for a number of years and has stood the test of time. It has been shown that children who begin their hockey training in this environment have an outstanding hockey experience.
Parents may ask the question why should my child play cross-ice, what will this bring? I want my child playing like the professionals do, full-ice, because I want my child to experience "real hockey." To help address these questions, let's think about a child trying to skate with a puck while performing a drill from one end of the rink to the other, how long will this take? How much energy will this require? Will the player's decision-making skills be enhanced more in the close action of the smaller cross-ice surface or in the wide-open area of the full-ice surface? In which situation will the child be more involved in the action?
A study of hockey games played on the full-ice surface by George Kingston in 1976 found the following:
In a sixty-minute running time hockey game between 6-8 year old children, the average player had possession of the puck for 20.7 seconds. Top National Hockey League and international professional players were also timed and no player exceeded 85 seconds of puck possession time. In a sixty-minute children's game the actual playing time of the game was 20 minutes and 38 seconds. Taking this into consideration, the individual player is only on the ice every third or fourth shift depending on how many players are on the team, resulting in even less ice time. An average of less than 0.5 shots per game for youth players and only 1.5 shots per game for junior and professional players.
The study concluded that:
* For young players in the "full-ice game model" of development, the youngest players would require 180 games and the older youth players would require 80 games to enjoy 60 minutes of actual puck possession time to execute their stick handling, passing, pass receiving and shooting skills.
* Professional and international players would require 60 games to ensure 60 minutes of puck control skill development.
Many players never touched the puck in the game, especially in youth hockey. USA Hockey firmly believes that by giving children the opportunity to participate in the Cross-Ice hockey program, which supports cross-ice practicing and playing, that their enjoyment of hockey as well as their hockey skills will be greatly enhanced.
To help you further understand the benefits of the cross-ice practicing and playing model, some of the advantages are listed below.
* The children have more energy with which they can improve their skills when they are skating 85 feet across the ice surface as opposed to the 200 feet length of the ice surface.
* Group sizes become smaller which means learning and teaching will become more effective.
* The close feeling of belonging to a team will motivate a child to participate with even greater enthusiasm.
* Drills designed according to the varying skill level of players within the group are easier to organize.
* More puck contact, resulting in improved puck control skills.
* More repetition/frequency in drills in one ice session.
* Decision-making skills are enhanced, as more decisions must
be made more frequently at a higher tempo.
* Playing on a smaller rink results in increased puck possession time for each player.
* Individual technical skills develop more quickly.
* More frequent line changes in the game means more ice time for each player.
* Line changes are made quickly since the players are directly beside the playing surface.
* Each player's activity increases greatly.
* Scoring skills are enhanced since the players have more shooting opportunities.
* The goalkeeper's reading of the game and reaction to changing game situations become more effective.
* More repetition for goalkeepers.
* The game is full of continuously changing situations.
* The speed in playing situations increase, which will require quicker mental and physical reactions by the players.
* Due to increased tempo, all of the team members take part in solving the playing situations, which leads to a sharing of responsibilities between players.
* The feeling of being an important part of the action increases because of the small size of the rink.
* Hockey sense, or understanding the principles of the game, is being developed at a young age.
* There are no unnecessary breaks in the game (i.e. off-sides, icing).
* More efficient use of ice time and space.
* The size of the rink is in proportion with the size of the players.
* USA Hockey recommends that teams play with two or three units of four or five players and one goalkeeper, which results in each player having more ice time.
* More ice time for practicing and playing is made available to more teams within a single association.
* Many teams can practice together by sharing the ice surface.
GENERAL SPIRIT OF PARTICIPATION AND FUN
* More children get a chance to play ice hockey.
* More children will experience a feeling of success when playing hockey.
* The same exciting and fun environment as in a "real" game is created.
* More and less gifted children will benefit from close/tight action on the ice.
* Children are excited and motivated to continue playing hockey.
Hockey will be more appealing and rewarding to a wider range of children and their parents.
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. Taken from... http://minnesotahockeyhep.com/columns/parenting/10-myths-about-the-american-development-model/#more-4863