Why Parents and Coaches Need to Re-Evaluate Their Priorities in Youth Hockey

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When it comes to youth hockey, parents and coaches should be re-evaluating their priorities to focus on development over competing. Despite hockey development models not introducing the train-to-win phase until U18 levels, many parents and coaches are prioritizing winning at the U7 levels. This can be a detrimental practice, as it often takes away from the development of the players and can lead to serious issues such as burnout and a lack of motivation.

The Current State of Youth Hockey Development Models

Youth hockey development models vary across the globe. The Canadian Development Model focuses on long-term athlete development, which means prioritizing skill development and age-appropriate training. The American Development Model takes a similar approach but with a focus on multi-sport participation and cross-ice hockey. Finally, the Finland Development Model is based on individual skill development, where players practice skills in isolation before applying them in game situations.

These development models have been designed to help players reach their full potential in a safe and supportive environment. The models recognize that winning should not be the priority in youth hockey, but rather, building strong fundamentals and a love for the game should be emphasized. It’s important for parents and coaches to understand these models and how they can support the growth and development of young athletes.

The Train-to-Win Phase in Hockey Development Models

Hockey Development Models are a key factor in the growth and success of youth hockey. The Canadian Development Model (CDM), American Development Model (ADM), and Finland Development Model (FDM) are all designed to guide players from the earliest stages of hockey to elite levels of play.

One critical component of these models is the Train-to-Win phase. This phase is when players start to focus more on winning games and competitions. In the CDM, this phase starts at U18, in the ADM it starts at U16, and in the FDM, it starts at U14.

The reason why the Train-to-Win phase doesn’t start until later in the development models is that before that point, the focus is on developing skills, sportsmanship, and a love for the game. Players learn how to work hard, respect their teammates and opponents, and play with passion and energy.

The Train-to-Win phase is important, but it’s essential to prioritize the journey, not just the outcome. Winning is always the goal, but not at the cost of sacrificing the values that have been instilled in the players from a young age.

Parents and coaches must recognize that the Train-to-Win phase will come, but they must remain committed to ensuring that players are well-rounded and prepared to succeed both on and off the ice.

The Train-to-Win phase should never be the sole focus of youth hockey. It’s vital to instill the proper values, skills, and behaviors at young ages, so players can be successful throughout their careers. If we start pressuring players to win too soon, we risk causing burnout and driving them away from the game they love.

The Pressure to Win at Young Ages

Despite the clear recommendations made by various hockey development models, there is still a great deal of pressure on youth athletes to win at very young ages. In both the Canadian and American Development Models, the focus is on skill development and fun at young ages, without introducing the train-to-win phase until the U18 level. Meanwhile, the Finland Development Model places an even greater emphasis on unstructured play and overall athleticism during early years of hockey.

However, many parents and coaches ignore these development models and instead prioritize winning above all else. There is often a belief that starting to win at a young age will create a “winning mentality” that will continue throughout a player’s career. Unfortunately, this approach often leads to short-term success but can have detrimental effects on the long-term development and enjoyment of the sport for young athletes.

Instead of focusing on winning at young ages, it is important to recognize that the most important aspects of youth hockey are skill development and fun. Allowing players to learn and enjoy the game without the pressure to win will lead to better overall development, both in hockey and in life.

As parents and coaches, it is our responsibility to prioritize the long-term development of our young athletes. We need to re-evaluate our priorities and focus on what really matters – helping our kids develop into skilled, well-rounded athletes who enjoy the game of hockey. By embracing the recommendations of hockey development models, we can create a better future for the sport and the young athletes who play it.

My Experience with Prioritizing Winning at the U7 Level

When my oldest son was just five years old and started playing hockey, I had one goal in mind – to win. I was so caught up in the excitement of the game and wanted my son’s team to be the best. I pushed the players hard, made sure they practiced, and would even shorten the bench, or overuse players to win a game.

At that time, I didn’t understand the importance of the Canadian Development Model. It wasn’t until later that I realized that winning shouldn’t be the top priority in youth hockey. I became embarrassed of my actions and realized that I was putting unnecessary pressure on young kids who should be enjoying the game and focusing on skill development.

Looking back, I wish I had followed the development model and allowed my son to just have fun and develop his skills. It would have been more beneficial in the long run for him and his teammates.

If you are a parent or coach, I urge you to reconsider your priorities in youth hockey. Winning should never come at the expense of the kids’ enjoyment of the game or their development as players. Remember, there is a time and place for everything, and the train-to-win phase should not begin until U18 levels. Let’s allow our kids to enjoy the game while they learn and grow at their own pace.

The Negative Effects of Prioritizing Winning on Youth Athletes

Prioritizing winning at young ages in youth hockey can have detrimental effects on the development and well-being of young athletes. The pressure to win can lead to increased stress and anxiety for both the players and their parents, which can negatively impact their overall enjoyment of the sport.

In addition, prioritizing winning can also lead to a lack of focus on skill development. Coaches may focus solely on winning and neglect the importance of developing fundamental skills that will be essential for the player’s future success. This lack of skill development can lead to frustration and discouragement for young players who may feel like they are not improving or contributing to the team’s success.

Moreover, prioritizing winning can also foster a culture of toxic competitiveness and create an unhealthy dynamic among players. When winning becomes the primary focus, it can breed animosity and a “me-first” attitude, rather than a team-first mentality.

Furthermore, prioritizing winning at a young age can also lead to burnout and decreased participation in the sport as players get older. Players may lose their passion for the sport due to the constant pressure to win, leading them to leave the sport altogether.

The Importance of Skill Development and Fun at Young Ages

As mentioned before, hockey development models focus on introducing the train-to-win phase at U18 levels. This means that before that phase, there is a heavy emphasis on skill development and having fun. Why is this important?

First, skill development is crucial for any athlete at any level. The younger an athlete is when they begin developing skills, the better chance they have at mastering those skills. By prioritizing skill development at a young age, we are setting youth athletes up for success later on in their hockey careers.

Second, having fun is important because it keeps youth athletes engaged and excited about the sport. If all they feel is pressure to win, they may lose sight of why they started playing hockey in the first place. By making sure they are having fun, they will continue to love the sport and want to keep playing.

But it’s not just about skill development and fun. It’s also about creating a positive environment for youth athletes. If they feel like they are being yelled at or belittled for making mistakes, they are less likely to continue playing hockey. By creating a positive environment, we are showing them that we care about their growth as athletes and as individuals.

So, while winning is always nice, it shouldn’t be the top priority at young ages. Skill development, having fun, and creating a positive environment should be the main focuses for parents and coaches. By doing this, we are setting our youth athletes up for success and creating a love for the sport that will last a lifetime.

How Parents and Coaches Can Re-Evaluate Their Priorities in Youth Hockey

1. Focus on Skill Development

As parents and coaches, we need to prioritize the development of our young players’ skills. Winning shouldn’t be the only objective of youth hockey games. We need to focus on skill development to help players build the foundation for future success.

2. Emphasize the Importance of Fun

Fun should be a top priority in youth hockey. It’s important to make sure that kids are enjoying themselves and that they’re excited to come to the rink each week. When young players have fun, they’re more likely to develop a love for the game that will last a lifetime.

3. Encourage Teamwork

Encouraging teamwork is essential in youth hockey. Coaches and parents should foster a team-first mentality that emphasizes collaboration, support, and unity. Players should be encouraged to work together to achieve their goals, whether that means scoring a goal, preventing a goal, or winning a game.

4. Support a Positive Culture

It’s important to create a positive culture in youth hockey that emphasizes respect, sportsmanship, and positive attitudes. Parents and coaches should lead by example and model positive behavior for young players. Encouraging players to support each other, respect their opponents, and play the game with integrity will create a positive environment that will benefit everyone involved.

5. Keep Perspective

Ultimately, youth hockey is about more than just winning games. It’s about developing young players into skilled, confident athletes who love the game. As parents and coaches, we need to keep perspective and remember that the journey is just as important as the destination. By emphasizing skill development, teamwork, and a positive culture, we can create an environment that sets our young players up for success, both on and off the ice.

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