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Winning the Race the Right Way in Youth Sports

Youth sports opportunities are growing across Indiana and some are taking a page from the book of USA Hockey’s Youth Hockey Development Program. In 2009, USA Hockey introduced an Athlete Development Model (ADM) to encourage more participation. The ADM focused on enjoyment, development, and increased participation, with the goal of creating more lifelong hockey players.

USA Hockey Youth Development Director Kevin McLaughlin took flack when the ADM was unrolled, as it also did away with bodychecking for 10-and-under divisions and a 12 and Under National Title.

The result was a better experience for the kids where they could play and grow as athletes and teammates, without diminishing the competitive spirit. Case in point, USA Hockey won all four world championships in 2017.

At a time when children are being asked to sign non-compete clauses, it is time for the adult agenda to take a backseat to the needs of the kids. According to blogger John O’Sullivan, who wrote about McLaughlin’s decision to bring the fun back into youth sports, “it’s time to start winning the race to the right finish line.” O’Sullivan lays out four main tenets for a better youth experience:

  1. Focus on early engagement, not specialization: help your kids fall in love with their sport on their own and let them enjoy the experience. Don’t force it. If your kid would rather take dance than swim, then let them pursue dance.
  2. Take the long view: most sports athletes peak in their 20s. There is no sense in pouring the training regiment of a 20-year-old into an 11-year-old physique. If you have a late bloomer, encourage them.
  3. Focus on behaviors, not outcomes: performance is a behavior, not an outcome. When student-athletes form great habits, they will keep those throughout the rest of their lives.
  4. Develop the whole person, not just the athlete: sports skills are life skills. Sports are a great venue for developing life skills, including working with others and dealing with adversity.

Every national youth sports governing body in the US is developing their own version of the ADM today. They’re combining science, research, and best principles from around the world to re-engage kids in sports.

Your organization can be the next USA Hockey. It just takes a belief in the science, long-term vision, a healthy dosage of courage to improve, and a strong commitment to serving the needs and values of the kids.

This article was originally published by [Changing The Game Project]: [here]