MARINERS INHOUSE HOCKEY PROGRAM
Iceoplex Simi Valley
Thank you for having a look at our Mariners InHouse Hockey Program!
As you have probably heard, we at Iceoplex Simi Valley, base our program on USA Hockey's American Development Model (ADM) and use their Age Level Guidelines. ADM is their vision of providing age appropriate training and experience in a fun and, at the younger levels, unpressured environment in order to foster a life long love for hockey, promote long term athlete development, and develop well-balanced lives. It stresses the benefits of small area games for all levels -- in practices for higher levels, and as the standardized game format for younger levels. Cross-ice hockey is now favored for Mite since a full NHL or Olympic playing surface is disproportionately large for the youngest players. Playing on a proportionally scaled surface allows for more "puck touches” for each player. We support this sensible concept but are playing our Squirts games on a full sheet based on the knowledge that this age is appropriate for the development of full-ice concepts, positioning, and strategies.
We also agree that the younger levels should not be burdened with structure they can't comprehend or execute. All of our time should be invested in fundamentals with fun as the main objective. Our Mite practices are structured to accommodate short attention spans. During practice, the players are usually placed in small groups of similar skill level which rotate every 7 - 8 minutes between skills stations. The coach at each station is empowered to relax or intensify each drill to afford the best benefits to each group that visits. Games are loosely structured and score is de-emphasized. This is why USA Hockey endorses the InHouse program at Iceoplex Simi as a model of their ADM Program.
Our nationally recognized* Mariners InHouse Program is all about fun and fundamentals. Everybody makes the team and everybody plays equal time. Our Mites are split up by ability, typically Mini-Mites and Mega-Mites.
Mites Games are held simultaneously for 6 Teams, separated by real dasherboards that temporarily divide the ice into three appropriately sized, cross-ice playing surfaces. Each level shoots on specially proportioned nets. Score is de-emphasized and fun is job one.
*We created and developed the Lil Kings and its continuation Programs for the Los Angeles Kings. Our model has been recognized by USA Hockey and the NHL as the most successful of its kind and it is now being promoted by them across North America.
Thanks in part to the great help from coaches, evaluations progress quickly and smoothly most seasons. Undoubtedly, you've noticed that we call it evaluations and not tryouts. Everybody makes a team and everyone plays equal time. There are several interdependent objectives for this evaluation period.
One objective of our evaluations is to assess the capabilities of each division as a whole. Each season, the average capability and the range of talent vary for each division. A different bell curve, if you will, each season. At the youngest levels, the bell curve tends to be very wide. One obvious reason at the Mite Division is that the age range is quite wide. We've got Players from 4 - 8 years old. At this early developmental age group, we have a wide range in physical ability and perhaps an even wider range of maturity and attention spans.
After the first weekend, having seen what each division looks like, we notice players that stand out as needing to move up or down a division. This could be due to their skill level or their size. We do have the ability to move exceptional or very large players up if they display an unfair dominance and can move less skilled or very small Players down when safety may be an issue. With some players, this is obvious on the first weekend. Some examples are our special needs Players, inexperienced Players, or those that have exceptional talent. We further divide the Mites into two sub-divisions based on all the attributes and factors mentioned.
Next we try to divide Squirt, Peewee, and Bantam into teams. Making up evenly matched teams at these divisions is the most challenging. Sometimes we nail it on the first week, sometimes we need minor and even major adjustments for weeks. We're just human and do our best.
We believe we have a pretty good handle on the process so far. We're sure you've seen Coach Pat consulting with each coach during the first couple of weeks, gesturing toward and discussing individual players, then relocating some of them. After a couple of weeks, if you strongly feel your player is in need of moving up or down, please bring it to Coach Pat's attention and we'll have a more detailed look. If you'd like, we can ask our Hockey Director, Luc, to have a look, as well. It doesn't hurt to have an extra pair of eyes to see, perhaps, something you or we may not have picked up.
Because this is InHouse Hockey and everybody makes the team, we have a wide range in physical ability and perhaps an even wider range of maturity and attention spans. As you are probably aware, we also have several players with special needs. Even at our PeeWee and Bantam levels, at each practice we need to measure the responsiveness of, say, the middle 80% of the bell curve and adjust the drills to accommodate them on the spot. Attention is also given to those that are struggling and those that are more advanced.
The drills are always much simpler than the ones a travel team can execute intuitively. Some days, there is a group aloofness. We first ask what we’re doing wrong. Perhaps we’re just not explaining things clearly. Sometimes it’s us coaches, sometimes not. Bottom line here is that we need to avoid the time it takes for them to learn complex drills in order to work on fundamentals and basic movement concepts.
Our time on the ice is limited. It's widely known that young players enjoy and benefit from a period of unstructured skating at the beginning of each practice. We usually give them 5 to 10 minutes. This leaves us with one 50 - 55 minute period each week during which their fundamental skills need to be honed. USA Hockey is right on with this one. Our practices need to be dedicated to these fundamentals with lots of repetition, especially when there's only 1 practice per week. Several years ago, we tried spending a good amount of time trying to teach new, complex drills every week, but fundamentals suffered. When we learned to bring it back to a practical proportion, game and individual skill levels improved and the players had more fun.
We believe that Mites CAN pass and play a game that involves more than just the most skilled and fastest player. You hear it from us when we skate with them during their games, "Who you gonna pass to? Who you gonna pass to?", and see it in their gameplay (sometimes.. !). Position here simply means spreading out, but they need to be reminded constantly. We give only basic instructions as to a Player’s position and movement. Spread out, stick on the ice, eyes up, and pass.
Squirt level Players are certainly capable of positional awareness and how a change of possession should instantly re-map the ice surface. As InHouse Coaches, we try to keep the plane flying straight with its wings and other parts in more or less practical relation to each other. Before we can discuss the reactive concepts of F1, F2, F3 attacks for example, we first need them to fly this formation at each corner of the ice.
Even at Squirt, PeeWee, and up, we still need to focus on fundamentals, but even the newest players should be actively adjusting their position and direction in response to where the puck is and who has possession a few weeks into the season. Our preference is to leave the scorekeeper and referee at home so we can skate with them during their first two games during or so. With a couple of coaches skating with each team and giving individual and group instruction on proper positioning and, more importantly, why it's proper, we end up have some real puck movement among 70 - 80 percent of our players.
Freeze hockey is one of the most efficient ways of teaching position. We first freeze them and tell them where to go. As the game goes on, we freeze them and ask them where they should be. Before long, we can freeze them and they go where they already know they should have been anyway!
We feel that our InHouse Players should be prepared to jump into Travel Hockey should they and their families decide to choose that level of commitment.
Hockey is traditionally a three-line sport. Expecting Mites to sit out two shifts would have them clubbing each other on the bench, however. We like small teams for youngest players. Smaller teams result in more ice time for each individual. Our Mites teams vary in size but we consider 5 - 10 ideal. Squirt and up typically consists of teams of 10 – 15 players
We have no or very few goalies at the Mite level. This is as it should be in our opinion. Players with aspirations to be the best goalies need to learn to skate first. We don't turn away the youngest players if they really want to strap on the pads, but we encourage the parents to allow them to skate up, even if only in practice.
HOCKEY SKATING CLASSES
Get off on the right foot and learn proper technique with our Hockey Skating Classes. All ages welcome.
Click here to learn more or contact Lauri Varvais 805-520-7465 x13
Feel free to call me any time with questions or comments.
Head Coach, Mariners InHouse Hockey
Director of InHouse Hockey, Iceoplex Simi Valley
USA Hockey Level 4 Certified Coach
For boys and girls ages 4 years and up. Mini Mites (6U) and Mega Mites (8U) play cross ice to develop their skills on an appropriate sized playing surface. Squirts (10U), Pee Wee (12U) and Bantam (13 and up) play full ice with a referee and scorekeeper. Everybody makes a team and everyone plays equal amounts of time. One practice and one game per week, all here at Iceoplex Simi Valley. Two seasons per year: Fall/Winter (Sept-Feb), and Spring/Summer (Mar-Aug).