Serving the scholastic field hockey and lacrosse community since 1998

March 18, 2019 — Not reinventing the wheel

Last weekend, the second annual USA Field Hockey Summit occurred in Baltimore. One of the key points of the agenda was a Saturday morning presentation called, “Introducing the USA Field Hockey American Development Model.”

Now, over the last decade or so, a number of development initiatives have come — and, regretfully, gone from USA Field Hockey. They all had one thing in common: these came out of USA Field Hockey’s periodic board meetings.

But the American Developent Model is a different construct. Already adopted by a number of national governing bodies of sport in the U.S., the ADM is a turnkey solution developed by the United States Olympic Committee back in 2015 to address lower sports participation rates among young people and to fight childhood obesity.

According to U.S. Olympic Committee documentation, the ADM is a blueprint for athletes, coaches, national governing bodies, and club teams in order to give participants lifetime opportunities to not only become exposed to the sport, but to find an outlet to succeed, find the natural end to their careers, and then find a way to give back to the sport.

USA Field Hockey has, in the past, tried to market the game as “a game for life.” But since those words were composed, we’ve noticed fewer and fewer athletes remaining with the sport, either as coaches, umpires, or adult players.

The ADM proposes a five-part development plan:

  1. Universal access. The key here is to remove obstacles to participation, something which, in these days of pay-to-play club field hockey, is going to be a major change.
  2. Developing age-appropriate skills. This aspect seems to discourage the “rushing” of prodigies into avenues of competition that could make them feel lost or uncompetitive.
  3. Encourage, not discourage, multi-sport participation. The ADM attempts to discourage players from specializing in one sport for the years leading into college. That parallels what you are hearing from many college coaches who would like better well-rounded athletes for their teams.
  4. A fun, challenging, and creative atmosphere. Keeping the game “fun” instead of doing drills, and emphasizing positive coaching.
  5. Quality coaching at all levels. This emphasizes the hiring of licensed coaches at all levels of a particular sport, and having mechanisms by which coaches continue their training in mid-career.

The ADM is geared towards the following four outcomes:

  1. Grow both the general athlete population and the pool of high-performance players from which future national-team members are selected
  2. Develop fundamental skills that transfer between athletic endeavors
  3. Provide appropriate avenues to fulfill an individual’s athletic needs
  4. Create a generation that loves a particular sport, and transfers that passion to the next generation

I invite you to take a look at the PDF we linked to earlier in this blog entry. This could be an interesting blueprint for the future survival of the sport in a highly competitive marketplace. Or it could wind up on the heap of ideas which were trotted out with great fanfare, but found not to work.

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