Early Specialization Part 4

I think any reader of this blog knows how passionate I am about youth sports and young athletes. Because of my posts about young athletes and the battle against early specialization readers send me additional support for my crusade. The following was furnished by my good friend Anthony Renna.

On October 21st of this year Mark Messier received the Lester Patrick Award from the National Hockey League. The following is excerpted from a NewsDay article the next day.

“As a youth, Messier didn’t remember leaving Edmonton to attend tournaments and lamented how somehow “we cannibalized youth sports with tournaments and travel and families making huge commitments . . . Tournaments have gone from a weekend thing to an every weekend thing, and from Saturday and Sunday to where they’ve got to be there Thursday . . . It disrupts the family life. There’s something to be said about the Sunday barbecue . . . We’re putting too much emphasis on it at too early an age.

“Less than 17 percent of first-round picks make it to the National Hockey League, so if you start looking at the numbers, you’re missing the whole objective. That’s where we’ve gotten off the beaten path.”

Lester Patrick himself had this to say about pond hockey:

A Patrick quote displayed in the Gotham Hall lobby about the innocence of playing on frozen ponds, “uncontaminated by adults and unspoiled by the egos of elders”

To read the entire article you can go to:


I ponder how we got so screwed up because I believe that many were well intentioned. However the truth is the system is badly broken and needs fixing, not just in hockey but in soccer, basketball and baseball.  USA Hockey has recently launched the American Development Model aimed at making corrections in youth hockey. This model is the Balyi model that is advocated by many of the leading sports groups in the world including the prestigious Titleist Performance Institute. To learn more, click here

8 Responses to “Early Specialization Part 4”

  1. organizing play is part of development and play itself should never stop on through to the adult.

  2. I’d prefer space to coaches. I think “good coaches” is a relative term. Coaching kids is the art of organizing play. The best coaching for youth hockey might consist of making even teams for cross ice three on three. Even space is overrated. You could have easily have 40 kids on the ice playing cross ice three on three with a a coach simply keeping score and settling disputes. This would be a great practice.

  3. Agree and today we seem to have lots of space but lack good coaches especially in early development. 3 years is the average life span of the youth athletic coach usually a parent of a child playing. Thanks Mike

  4. Sully- I think it is step in the right direction. What we did well in the 70’s and 80’s was played multiple sports. There was very little coaching and a lot of unsupervised play.

  5. Not good or bad I hear concern with rules, age, money, space, some confusion on how and when to apply it. What were we doing so right in the 70’s and 80’s?

  6. mboyle1959 Says:

    Good or bad?

  7. I’v been getting lots of interesting feed back from coaches, players, parents, and rink owners on the ADM the last six months on both coasts.

  8. seanskahan Says:

    Good stuff MB. More coaches, parents, and players need to see the American Development Model site. I think this is huge.

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