David Hutchison | Jan 22, 2019 | 0
Goaltending and the Long-Term Athletic Development Model: Part II
In part one of this article the seven stages of the LTAD Model were presented along with their respective elements. In part two, the ten influencing factors that affect what, how and when to train certain features of athletic performance will be discussed. The influencing factors are:
- The “ten year” or “10,000 hour” rule
- Growth, Development and Maturation
- Trainability “Window”
- Mental, Cognitive and Emotional Development
- Periodization and Training Principles
- System Alignment and Integration
- System of Competition
- Continuous Improvement
The 10 year or 10,000 hour rule is straightforward. It relates to the duration or number of hours required for a technique to become a learned skill. Ten thousand hours is a tremendous amount of ice time! This would appear to contradict my previous statement that more is not always better; however, a significant amount of training is required before reaching the ‘Training to win’ stage. Appropriate muscle memory must be established and refined to the point that goaltender-specific movements occur without conscious thought. If you take 1,000 hours of skill training per calendar year, that averages out to close to three hours of ice time daily. Is this feasible? I would say yes but it realistically leaves little time for academic work or to be a kid. Also, can a nine-year-old child learn and perform effectively for three hours of instruction and have quality development? The answer is yes, (as an 11-year-old Patrick Kane was on the ice 350 days, played 300 games and went to nine weeks of summer hockey school)(1) but it depends on the kid!
Part of this article conveyed that a foundation of skills must be established by age 11 (girls) or 12 (boys) to establish a skill foundation for further progression. It is called physical literacy and is the sum total of basic motor skills, and fundamental sport skills. This includes agility, balance and coordination but also traits such as speed, dexterity, reaction time and time-space orientation. The wide range of athletic attributes required to excel is the reason the multi-sport approach is an integral part of the LTAD model. Many coaches and parents don’t view multi-sport participation as being advantageous to becoming an elite hockey player and choose to focus solely on hockey.
This leads to the idea of sport specialization. Certain sports, like gymnastics, require the athlete to have single-minded focus from an early age. Hockey is defined as a “late” development sport.
Research indicates that early specialization in a late specialization sport results in: (1) an increased number of injuries (2) an increased rate of “burnout” (e.g., Bantam aged hockey players) and (3) really only results in age-specific group performers. What does this mean? It means that those players focusing solely on hockey will initially move up the developmental curve faster but are also more likely to peak and level off before reaching the ‘Training to Win’ stage.
Three other observations: (1) the best athletes begin sports between the ages of seven and eight and focus initially on general development. (2) Athletes begin to excel after 5 to 8 years of specific training and (3) systematic training and specialization should occur between the ages of 15 and 18. The bottom line in simple terms is therefore athlete first, and goaltender second.
Steve McKichan supports this approach and frequently uses the term “Cookie Cutter” goalies. This is meant, in part, to describe too much focus on technique and insufficient athleticism in young goaltender development. In an article in Goalies’ World Magazine
McKichan wrote, “ One of the things that NHL scouts look for are multi-disciplined athletes. If an athlete can learn and excel in other sports requiring different skill sets and physiological requirements, then it bodes well for his or her ability to play the current sport at a higher, professional level. An argument can be made that multi-disciplined athletes have a far greater chance of success at the pro level than those who lack this skill.” (2)
The current goaltenders for the Belleville Bulls of the Ontario Hockey League are both examples of the athlete first process. Both Malcolm Subban and John Chartrand (whom I know personally) only began to play goal at the age of 12. In the case of Subban, he quickly moved from house league to the ‘AAA’ level. He is presently the number one North American ranked goaltender by Central Scouting for the 2012 NHL entry draft.
Yet another consideration is the four to five year potential difference between chronological and developmental age in some athletes. Research suggests that despite a child being placed in a certain age group based on birth year, the physical, cognitive and behavioral maturity must be considered when dealing with one athlete or an entire team. This brings us back to the debate whether it is fair to have first and fourth quarter births trying out and competing against each other? If fourth quarter births are physically smaller is there a bias against them at try-out time? (Editor’s Note: InGoal looked at NHL goaltender’s birth dates two years ago – then roughly 65% were born in the first half of the year) This suggests that the potential “late bloomers”, by not getting selected, will not receive access to the best coaching, training or competition. In fact, they may not bloom at all! I will provide some interesting data to that effect in a future article titled “From Minor Hockey to the Ontario Hockey League: A 10-year Retrospective Analysis.”
The LTAD model repeatedly makes reference to “training windows” and trainability. These windows are opportunistic periods during which any athlete is more sensitive to certain types of appropriate training. There is more progress during these time periods and hence it is referred to as accelerated adaptation. The factors that may be improved are referred to as the 5 S’s of sport performance. They include: (1) Stamina (endurance), (2) Strength, (3) Speed, (4) Skill and (5) Suppleness (Flexibility). (3) These factors can all be improved throughout an individual’s life but improvements decrease with advancing age! These sensitive periods vary in males and females and from one individual to another. They are related to an individual’s PHV (Peak Height Velocity), the onset of menarche (females), chronological and developmental age. Training priorities are generally based on PHV. PHV is the period of maximal vertical growth in both sexes. As a parent of a goalie, you can chart and monitor for these changes and then seize the chance to accelerate your child’s training efforts when appropriate. There is more to the topic than monitoring for PHV but interested readers can learn by pursuing references provided in part one of this article.
The physical, mental, cognitive and emotional development of an athlete is extremely important and often ignored in minor hockey. This likely affects the goaltender more than anyone else. A head coach generally does not talk a lot to the goalie during practice. The coach may scream something generic like “stand up”, “come out” or “your angle is off!” Another problem may be the coaches not getting to know their players on a personal level or asking parents about what makes their child motivated and learn best? Does the coach know how things are at home or whether things are well at school? Are the coach and parents working together or, more often than not, are the coach’s efforts being sabotaged by parent coaching at home or from the stands? Is the coach teaching the team to deal with distractions? Does the coach communicate according to the age of the players or just bring an old school approach to the bench? If an association provides two practices per week, is it realistic for the coach to know your child well when they only see them a few hours per week? I would say absolutely not. Does all this affect how quickly a coach may give up on some players and categorize them as not coachable? I say definitely! I don’t see a good solution to this issue in the current system, but clearly developmental opportunities are not being maximized
Periodization is an organized approach coaches use to help their athletes. It is defined as the “ideal sequencing and integration of training, competition and recovery activities” during different periods (pre-season, competitive season, post-season), phases and cycles (macrocycles and mesocycles) of a 52-week program. The entire process is geared towards having your goalie in top form for all the major competitions. In minor hockey, this includes tournaments, an important league game or the play-offs. As a goaltending coach, you have to have a plan in place for different parts of the season. The bigger problem however is coordinating with, and getting the cooperation of, the head coach.
Integration is simply putting all the athletic parameters together over time and seeing progressive improvement within the context of a periodized program. There is clearly overlap between general training and sport-specific training. This should eventually lead to better performances over the course of the athlete’s growth and development. (4)
Competitive calendar planning is the responsibility of the head coach; however, there should be a coordinated effort between head coach, goalie coach and other members of the staff. Since hockey is a team game this does not relate solely to the needs of the goaltender.
In conclusion, the Long Term Athletic Development Model is an excellent science-based framework for developing elite athletes. It has been adopted by Hockey Canada. The purpose of my article was to inform unknowing coaches, goalies and their parents that there is a systematic and progressive ways to move through minor hockey and develop. As a goalie parent, I have never relied on my son’s head coach or the association in which he plays to help develop his skills. It is sad to say, but this would have been developmental suicide. Always ask questions, read as much as you can, accumulate resources from wherever you can, and do not assume everyone is an expert despite what they may say. Goaltending is an expensive endeavor and you only get one shot to help your child and do it correctly. Enjoy the journey with your child!
- Campbell, K. The Two Hundred Thousand Dollar Question; The Hockey News, September 2, 2008, pp. 20-25
- McKichan, S. Be an athlete first. Be a goalie, second: Goalies’ World Magazine, Issue 80, P. 36, 2011
- Dick, F. From Senior to Super star: Ottawa: CAC, SPORTS, May 1985
- Bompa, T.O., Total Training for Young Athletes: Proven Conditioning Programs for Athletes Ages 6 to 18: Human Kinetics, Champaign, IL. , 2000