Biggest camp ever

IIHF takes new approach in development


Over 400 participants come to Vierumäki to learn. IIHF Sport Director Dave Fitzpatrick (left) introduces us the camp. Photo: Martin Merk

VIERUMÄKI – In its new four-year Council cycle, the IIHF also goes a slightly different path when it comes to developing hockey. The 12th global IIHF Hockey Development Camp will be the biggest ever not only with 480 people involved but also with a targeted development approach for each of the 53 nations present.

“Make it happen” is the slogan. The participants come to learn, but also to bring lessons home and impact their program. talked with IIHF Sport Director Dave Fitzpatrick before the weeklong camp in Vierumäki, a two-hour journey from the Finnish capital of Helsinki. The camp runs until next weekend.

What is the purpose of the IIHF Hockey Development Camp?

First of all it’s a leadership camp. It’s intended to help develop leaders inside of the national associations. This year’s camp is going to be different from previous programs because it’s targeted development where we identified the needs through the audit strengths and weaknesses of each association.

What we’ve done is targeting special projects for each country and they’re invited to participate in certain programs. During the camp we will run 11 different programs along with eight team programs, so there’s a lot going on simultaneously.

The idea of the leadership program is to develop the people who return home so they’re not only familiar with the project or skills or tasks but that they have practically done it here so they can do it at home as a group and build a network. So when they go home, there’s a support system and also a period of trials to practise it, rehearse it and work with other people.

Can you tell us more about the targeted development approach?

This is the first year we’ve taken a targeted approach to this. It’s not just a camp where you show up and take part in whatever you think may fit. Now we based our decisions in what we know and not in what we think we know.

We can target a program for an association, identify the people that will be there and work through a very specific program. We then help them design a program so when they return home there’s a focus, there’s a definite need that’s being addressed on which they can work within the association and the IIHF can help them co-fund that so they can run it domestically.

And depending on the timing we can also look at placing a student there on a long or short-term commitment. It’s co-ordinating all the information we have to give the associations a firm footing to start a program and provide some funding and possibly people to help operate it in the form of students.

In the end the IIHF doesn’t run teams. That happens in the nations. But we’re here to help.

What role did the audits play that were run in the last few years?

Everything what we’ve gained is through the audit. It’s relatively recent data. 63 countries have been audited. The information is quite extensive. Things do change in every year, I agree on that, but for most part the bigger issues don’t change. The areas where an association is strong continue to be strong and the areas an association is weak at continue to be weak. We can address these weaknesses much easier by knowing the associations better.

What forms of education will the participants get?

We divided it up in all the programs. They cover the range of areas that we have to work on by lots of associations. 53 countries show up. We’re about 480 people altogether with everything going on. We’ve targeted the associations with certain people to come and participate in certain programs.

The programs are based on a mentor-and-participant relationship. Participants are working with a group of IIHF people assigned to work on those skills and give the information to the recipient. The recipients from the national associations are there, invited by the IIHF for a particular purpose.

The idea is not only to identify the problem, or the concerns or needs but to identify people inside the country, bring them to the camp and educate them or begin to educate them.

When they leave they have a full dossier of what to do and how to do it. When they return home, the plan is that they introduce it to the association, and we as the IIHF will help them design a program that they run domestically and we will help fund it to make it actually work and then we evaluate it and monitor it.

So they will kind of introduce the program at national level with what they’ve learned.

It could be anything. We specifically try to target leadership development, recruitment programming, goalkeeping, skating, coach recruitment and education, officiating recruitment, training and monitoring of the instructors, looking at long-term athlete development and also administration. How to organize and administrate an organization, that’s brand-new this year.

The programs and issues have been identified through the audit so it is current and specific for each of our member national associations. Everyone is different.

From what regions do the participants come from?

They come from all over the world, from five continents. 53 of our national associations will show up at the camp.

What we tried to do is to identify not particular players, coaches or participants from the bigger countries. They’re more in the leadership and instruction areas. The smaller nations are invited to be more on the leadership development side.

Most of the bigger nations have had good programs in place for a while. So we use those people who have been instructors for a while to teach the smaller developing nations that they too have a resource person, and that they through the classroom activities as well as on-ice activities build a network of people who are in a similar situation.

In which areas do most of the participants normally work?

The biggest program will be the Learn to Play Program with about 70 participants. You need to build the bottom up. We know that in all our associations in the youngest ages the numbers are dwindling, so we have to address that. But we’re also looking at coach development, in instruction techniques. We’re looking at how to manage associations. These are some of the bigger programs.

Coach education is huge too. What we’ve tried to do is identify the coach education component and looking at long-term athlete development so it’s realistic, so you can follow an athlete and look at how you can develop a player over a long term through coaching. It’s addressing a need that has been there for a long time but putting a more formalized structure around it and targeting specific people.

Can you tell us something about the camp site in Vierumäki?

It’s unique. The number-one thing is that it has students and that’s very important for us. To drive a lot of the programs in many of the developing nations can be a challenge because they don’t have the manpower. The whole strategy is to get them with their student placement in Vierumäki to do this placement in certain countries that we have worked with and help them operate these programs we’re helping to design. So there’s a delivery mechanism we’re trying to put there.

The site itself has got all the facilities there. It’s a summer camp. The sun basically never sets. It’s a full-day program. The ice facility has two ice sheets and more than enough dressing rooms. We can use them not only for the teams but also for other programs and the instructors. We also have a classroom setup, athletic fields outside and when there’s bad weather there’s a huge covered gymnasium, a dome as we call it. We can use all the floor there if needed. There’s plenty of classrooms all over the site. The accommodation is all set up in a way of dormitories. There are cafeterias and places where they can go and work as a team for education in a very relaxed setting. There’s a medical service. All this adds up to a complete facility that is very adaptable and ready for a complete program.

There are also players coming. After the women’s camp last year it will be boys born in 1998 from many countries this time. What will their role be and what can they expect?

We know across the board that at a certain age there’s a drop-out rate. And there’s a lot of good players that are in the system. The associations show to these players that they believe in them. These are players that have leadership qualities. That’s one of the big criteria points. When the athletes come there they’re not only there to learn. They will improve a little bit during the week but not dramatically. Their job is really to act as a team with the other athletes to become part of the other leadership programs we work with. There are athletes but the emphasis is more on the instructors.

During the camp they’re good role models that are selected to be there as leaders but also to pass this information along to their fellow players. When the athlete returns home they’re definitely a spokesperson. But what the associations have done is show confidence in the particular athletes to send them somewhere and hope they’ll stay a little bit longer involved in the game in the mid-teens when there are other opportunities as well.

Additionally, we will have about 140 six- to eight-year olds from the region for the Learn to Play Program and about 70 instructors.


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